India’s highest court has struck down a century-old law that made adultery a criminal offense, the BBC reports.
In a unanimous ruling, the judges declared extramarital sex can no longer serve as grounds for arrest, although it remains a cause for divorce.
According to the 158-year-old colonial-era law, a man who has sex with a married woman, without the permission of her husband, can face a maximum of five years in prison.
Critics of the law called it sexist. Under the provision, Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code, only husbands could file complaints, and only against another man. Women were not given the same potential legal recourse, and also could not be punished.
The law also “indirectly discriminates against women by holding an erroneous presumption that women are the property of men,” said Joseph Shine, who petitioned the Supreme Court to strike it down.
The judges appeared to agree, stating that it “perpetuates subordinate status of women.”
“It’s time to say that husband is not the master of wife. Legal sovereignty of one sex over other sex is wrong,” Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in the ruling, according to Indian local news site Live Law.
This is the second colonial-era law that the Supreme Court has invalidated this month after it decriminalized homosexuality in a landmark ruling on Sept. 6.
Adultery is still considered an offense in many countries around the world, including in Taiwan and Bangladesh, as well as in nearly two dozen American states.
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