TOP
Sunday,November 29,2020 11:03 AM
  • Home
  • Archive
  • Adultery law is archaic, oppressive to women

Adultery law is archaic, oppressive to women

By Vision Reporter

Added 11th April 2006 03:00 AM

PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
Opiyo Oloya

The state has no business in the bedroom of the nation. The late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada, offered that piece of wisdom in the 1960s to head off debate about who may sleep with who.

PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
Opiyo Oloya

The state has no business in the bedroom of the nation. The late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada, offered that piece of wisdom in the 1960s to head off debate about who may sleep with who.

PERSPECTIVE OF A UGANDAN IN CANADA
Opiyo Oloya

The state has no business in the bedroom of the nation. The late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the former prime minister of Canada, offered that piece of wisdom in the 1960s to head off debate about who may sleep with who.

Considered one of the best leaders Canada ever had, Trudeau argued that instead of legislating sexual morality among consenting adults, the individuals themselves must find resolution. When two consenting adults freely choose to engage in sex, what business is it to the state?

Had this been the guiding principle and not the Uganda’s archaic adultery law, the current diplomatic faux pas could have been avoided between Rwanda and Uganda.

As reported in the media, a Rwandese diplomat and a married naturalised Ugandan woman were arrested for allegedly engaging in adultery in a hotel room last week. While the man immediately claimed diplomatic immunity from prosecution, the lady remains on the hook for possible prosecution. Under Uganda’s law, Section 154 (1) of the Penal Code Act, any man who engages in sexual intercourse with any married woman not being his wife commits adultery and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or a fine not exceeding 200.

Meanwhile, Section 154 (2) of the Act states that any married woman who has sexual intercourse with any man not being her husband commits adultery and is liable on first conviction to a caution by the court and on subsequent conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months. Clearly, this law has outlived its usefulness — it is based on ancient Greeks, and the earlier period of Roman law, where it was not adultery unless a married woman was the offender. Those were the days when women were considered mere property, chattels of men, to be treated like goods. However, when the above statute is put under the microscope, three things are quickly apparent.

First the law is deliberately silent about an unmarried woman having intercourse with a married man. Even though the impact on the married couple is the same as when a married woman has extramarital affairs with an unmarried man, the law somehow, rules that the latter affair is illegal whereas the former is okay!

In simple terms, this double standard encourages, in fact begs married men to roam around, sleeping with whomever they choose, so long as it is not a married woman. It is okay to flaunt your marriage, betray your wife, and engage in all sorts of sexual peccadilloes without incurring the wrath of the law! Secondly, presumably to compensate for the lopsided law against women, the married woman gets off with a warning for first offence, even as her lover faces possible jail term. But then the law could also be saying to the married woman caught in adulterous relationship: You could not possibly know what is good for you, in fact, we will let you off with a stern warning this first time around because you could not possibly be thinking straight. No wonder in Pennsylvania the adultery law used to require that the perpetrator spend time in a mental asylum for 18 months.

Thirdly, under Uganda’s Penal Code regarding extramarital affairs, the married woman should not have an opinion, sexual desires, or possibly do what many married men do when their marriages are breaking down (or when the marriage is not broken) which is to seek new partners. Even if she is stuck in a bad marriage, where the husband is an abusive, philandering, foul-mouthed alcoholic slobbering idiot, it is still her duty to stand by her man. It does not matter that her face is the punching bag in the evening or that her body is a spittoon for the disposal of her husband’s sexual aggression. She must soldier on regardless, toughing it out, crying in the silence of isolation. That is not to argue that infidelity or adultery is right or that it is without social cost.

In addition to wrecking relationships and homes, its reverberation is often felt beyond the act itself, especially by the children in the marriage. That said, what happened to the Rwandese diplomat and his married lover illustrates the point that when it comes to issues of sexual escapades, women bear the brunt of the law which was clearly designed by men for men and their sexual enjoyment. It is the woman who, as in this case, faces the impact of the law, and who is shamed before millions of people.

Although adultery is still criminalised in non-Muslim countries like Taiwan, Korea, Greece, Austria and Switzerland, it is rarely enforced. The alternative adopted by many jurisdictions is to simply allow the aggrieved spouse (or the one who committed adultery) to seek divorce should he or she wish to do so. A better approach is to introduce a civil system that would allow married couples experiencing marital breakdowns to sit down in the presence of non-judgmental peers to review all options in a supportive non-legal, non-confrontational manner.

Should the couple so decide that the marriage can be repaired, they should be encouraged to reconcile.

But if it is evident that the marriage is broken for good, then there is no point in adding salt to the wound by dragging the couple before a court of law.

Opiyo.oloya@sympatico.ca

Adultery law is archaic, oppressive to women

Related articles

More From The Author

More From The Author