India’s supreme court on Thursday ruled that adultery is no longer a crime in the country.
The ruling overturns a colonial-era law that punished offenders with a five-year jail time.
“It’s time to say that husband is not the master of wife,” said Dipak Misra, chief justice of India, on behalf of the panel of five supreme court judges.
“Women should be treated with equality along with men.”
The judges described the law as archaic, arbitrary and unconstitutional.
Judge Rohinton Nariman said “ancient notions of man being perpetrator and woman being victim no longer hold good” while justice DY Chandrachud noted that the law “perpetuates subordinate status of women, denies dignity, sexual autonomy, is based on gender stereotypes”.
Chandrachud said the law sought to “control sexuality of woman (and) hits the autonomy and dignity of woman”.
Joseph Shine, a 41-year-old Indian businessman living in Italy, had in August 2017 petitioned the supreme court to abolish the law.
He said the law discriminates against men by only holding them liable for extra-marital relationships while treating women like objects.
“Married women are not a special case for the purpose of prosecution for adultery. They are not in any way situated differently than men,” Shine said in his petition.
He said the law “indirectly discriminates against women by holding an erroneous presumption that women are the property of men”.