The Importance of Removing Section 497 for Married Women
“Striking down Section 497 is a big step towards the sexual liberation of women in this country,” says Madhuri Banerjee.
Let’s talk about lust for a second. Just a second because it’s supposed to be a bad word in Indian society. We’re not allowed to feel it, even though it’s a primal instinct and we’re not allowed to display it. Good Indian girls study hard to find a suitable partner, get married according to their parents’ wishes, have children and live happily ever after. So, where’s the need for lust?
Now let’s talk about suicides. In September 2018 the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990-2016 published in the Lancet Public Health journal that 63 percent of all suicide deaths reported in India were in the 15-39 age group. India accounted for 37% of global suicide deaths among women. Married women accounted for the highest proportion of suicide deaths.
India accounted for 37% of global suicide deaths among women. Married women accounted for the highest proportion of suicide deaths.
A successful marriage we’re taught, is one in which the woman has kept her husband with her for several years. A woman is told that she needs to improve herself to keep the spark alive. At any point in the marriage, a man has the right to have an affair, without any consequences from the wife. But if the wife chooses to have an extramarital affair, her paramour can be imprisoned by the husband. Fidelity is a must for women, but men aren’t subject to this high standard.
Fidelity is a must for women, but men aren’t subject to this high standard.
Removing Section 497 gives the power back to a woman and removes this patriarchal notion of fidelity. It decriminalises this action. A woman can fall in lust with another man without living in fear that the man can be imprisoned. It probably finally makes the husband wake up and be more aware of his wife’s needs.
Striking down Section 497 is a big step towards the sexual liberation of women in this country. She is no longer the property of a man. It is a major step that allows both partners to work on their marriage equally. And if both stray, then it gives the man and woman equal rights to get a divorce.
Removing Section 497 is a small wake up call for women. It’s not about having affairs and getting away with it. It’s about finding your happiness in whichever way you can.
The Lancet paper says four out of ten women commit suicide in India. “Married women account for the highest proportion of suicide deaths among women in India.” It is high time married women find happiness in every way they can – not just by falling in lust, but by taking their life into their own hands. Removing Section 497 is a small wake up call for women. It’s not about having affairs and getting away with it. It’s about finding your happiness in whichever way you can. By giving the power back to a woman, it also reminds the woman that she has responsibilities towards herself, a marriage and several lives. Celebrating several years of a marriage isn’t success if the woman isn’t happy. Begin to love yourself before someone can love you. Hold your partner accountable to keep the spark alive as well. And keep the lust burning bright.
Madhuri Banerjee is a bestselling author, film writer, columnist and a relationship blogger. The views expressed are the author’s own.