The indelible truth about marriage is that it is a social contract with a sacrosanct set of expectations and boundaries. However, I have been thinking how relevant or irrelevant these boundaries are, largely in today’s context, since the Supreme Court decriminalised adultery in September this year.
My conclusion: I disagree with all those applauding the move, saying that the freedom to choose sexual partners after marriage is solely the woman’s prerogative I don’t think it works thus. After all, the decision to marry is a conscious choice you make when you find a man you think you can spend the rest of your life and bed with. Affairs and sexual escapades, mostly, damage the bond between a couple, sometimes irrevocably. Decriminalising adultery, to my mind, is only going to unleash an avalanche of divorces.
Most divorced men and women who’ve suffered infidelity, continue to deal with complicated self esteem and trust issues for years, and find it hard to move on. I believe that as a society we are living in an unprecedented era of superficial positivity. After all, everyone is preaching positivity on social media and even offline without really caring to understand that we are all blindly embracing a few (apparently progressive) ideologies that are actually complicating and deepening the individual quest for positivity. An unreasoned and prompt consensus on the decriminalisation of adultery is yet another addition to that bouquet of ungrounded ideologies.
Even today, a sizeable number of marriages in our country happen without the consent of the bride and groom. While some among these couples eventually find love, others grow farther apart. A legal termination of the nuptial bond is the logical recourse for such couples. But sadly many a time, this does not happen. Seeking love and sex outside marriage in such a situation is natural and acceptable. Ironically, even the extramarital liaisons stemming from such marriages do not have mutual consent, which again is a tricky subject layered with complex psychological and social conditioning. Scrapping of Section 497 has only one silver lining — it has granted some elementary human rights to this particular category of married couples.
It is no secret that most extra marital affairs happen because men and women need variety and spice. Coarsely and honestly translated this can only be attributed to an unrestrained libido. Few moons ago, I remember laughing my guts out when a single girl friend of mine pointed that it is mostly the married women of our age bracket (30 somethings) who have boyfriends and that the spinsters are mostly alone. A chronic bachelor corroborated our theory when he said that most single or divorced men are commitment phobic (read paranoid about marriage) and hence opt for married women who are sexually more nuanced and in it for the sheer fun of it. I have wondered why these teeming numbers of educated young women continue to adorn their foreheads with vermillion despite having doting boyfriends in the closet. Well, because they cannot dispense with the social and financial security of marriage! Plus boyfriends can come and go, but a husband is forever!
While the act of infidelity in itself is probably not the problem, the ramifications necessitate introspection. Is it ok if an anguished wife commits suicide after discovering her husband’s multiple affairs? Is it ok if a small town fashion designer fools her unsuspecting and supportive husband and routinely travels to her boyfriend’s town just to live her sexual fantasies?
Open marriages and wife swapping, largely urban metropolitan phenomenon, are also pretty closed to their own realities. If both the married partners were really unaffected (as they claim), they would not be undergoing clinical depression in the spiralling numbers that psychologists are now vouching for.
Justice Chandrachud’s verdict has led to a lot of armchair intellectualising. But interestingly only a negligible few of these can actually endorse or even tolerate sexual or emotional infidelity of their own spouses! For once I am happy with this hypocrisy for it clearly tells me that no matter what people say (often in a desperate bid to come across as liberal), deep down they understand that while decriminalising is not wrong, it does not achieve anything positive either.