Bengaluru: It took not a gender activist or a legal expert but a Church-going, happily married Malayalee in Italy to overturn the 158-year-old law on adultery. What’s in it for him? He says he just wanted to rescue Indian men from being penalized for extra-marital affairs.
Meet Joseph Shine, a Malayalee hotelier in Italy, whose petition led to India’s top court abolishing Section 497 on Thursday.
He says his landline in Italy has been ringing since 3 am with calls from journalists, but that he has mostly avoided them. His lawyer Kaleeswaram Raj said Shine had asked not to share his contact details with the media.
“He is living a happy family life and has no personal interest in the case. He had earlier filed a writ petition against Kerala’s power minister M.M. Mani for alleged derogatory remarks against women. He likes to support general causes and is extremely interested in Kerala,” said Raj.
When Mint contacted him, Shine, however, had a story to share on why he fought to abolish the law. He said the trigger for him came when a close Kerala friend, whom he considered to be a brother, committed suicide some years ago after a female colleague filed an allegedly false rape complaint against him.
“They (married women) might have willingly participated, but it will be men who might suffer (when her husband files a complaint). Something like this (an adultery complaint) will make a man feel isolated. If he also happens to be someone with less willpower, he might not be able to cope with it. This (the court ruling) is a basic step. It can lead to further changes,” said Shine.
Shine thinks the law dented the individuality of men. Under Section 497, the man who committed adultery alone could be punished, while his female partner was exempted.
Shine says, the criminalization of adultery also led to a measure of deception in people’s daily life. Malayalee men who engage in adultery also condemn it with pseudo-morality, he said.