A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court will now decide whether adultery should be punishable for women or not. As for the 19th-century law goes, it only punishes men for adultery and not women. The apex court said on Friday that since we are progressing in our society and bringing gender equality in place, the bench will have to revisit older verdicts on the matter.

“Law cannot treat women differently for the purpose of a criminal offence when in every other offence there is no gender bias.”

“We don’t agree with the 1954 and 1985 judgement of this court which said IPC 497 is not discriminatory against women,” the Supreme Court said, NDTV reported. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code only deals with men as perpetrators and leave women out of it. It puts women in a different light—that of a victim.

The SC will review the validity of the provision which says, “Law cannot treat women differently for the purpose of a criminal offence when in every other offence there is no gender bias.”

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A Kerala-based activist, Joseph Shine, filed a petition seeking review of the IPC section dealing with adultery. On Friday, the SC has taken it up and has also asked the Centre to specify its stand on the matter. Shine noted that the earlier trials in this case have upheld the current provision giving no representation of women as adulterers. Earlier the court left the decision on the Parliament. However, they never picked this issue up either.

The 158-year-old section 497 prohibits, a consensual sexual relationship between an unmarried man and a married woman if the married woman does not have permission from her husband. However, in such cases, the law will only punish the unmarried man for adultery on the husband’s objection and not the woman.

Section 497 commands up to five years in jail but the centre doesn’t record the number of cases registered for this offence.

A lot of gender equality activists call for gender-just laws and it is necessary for the constitution to keep reforming, according to the progressing society.

Picture credit- LiveMint

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