Most law graduates remember the case distinctly. In 1954, K. Balavendram vs. S. Harry, the Madras High Court declared the husband impotent on the ground that his abnormally large sex organ rendered sexual intercourse impracticable.
More than five decades later, the long arm of the law is still creating bedlam in the bedroom. Some legislations have an impact on conduct between the sheets.
Impotency: A virile man can be declared impotent under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 empowering his wife to seek divorce on the ground of impotency. The legal definition of impotency may not necessarily be based on the person’s medical condition. Courts simply define impotency as “incapacity to have sexual intercourse”.
Cruelty: A spouse’s wilful refusal to have sex with the other, amounts to cruelty, a ground for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act. Maintaining that a normal and healthy sexual relationship is the basis of a harmonious marriage, courts have held that wilful denial of a sexual relationship by a spouse when the other is anxious for it, amounts to mental cruelty.
Adultery: In matrimonial law, adultery means intercourse with a person of the opposite sex outside wedlock. This is a ground for divorce. But adultery is a criminal offence as well. Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) says a man’s sexual intercourse with a married woman without the consent or connivance of her husband amounts to adultery. Strangely, the law punishes only the man for adultery and treats the woman as a victim of the crime.
Marital rape: At present marital rape is not a crime. An amendment was proposed to Section 375 that defines rape. The government has reportedly dropped the proposal to make marital rape an offence. “If wilful refusal to have sex with one’s spouse is bad, forcible sex is worse,” says senior advocate Pinky Anand. “But before making it punishable, we need to weigh its pros and cons.”