Recently an Iranian women convicted of adultery has been sentenced to
death by stoning. The woman had been convicted earlier on May 2006 for
having an ‘illicit relationship’ with two men and was sentenced to
receive 99 lashes for the said offence.
According to the Islamic penal code of Iran, Stoning to death or
flogging is the punishment for adultery. However, other crimes such
as murder or drug trafficking are punished with death by hanging.
The most amazing fact about the punishment of death by stoning is
that, the men punished in this way are buried up to waist while
women’s are buried deeper up to their breasts. However if the person
can drag himself or herself out during the process of stoning, then he
or she is acquitted or jailed. Men are naturally stronger then women’s and hence there is greater chance for them to escape the punishment. In fact in December 2008 a man dragged himself out of the pit where he was buried for stoning and escaped the
death punishment. A similar kind of incident took place a few days
back in the ‘Kunduz province’ of Afghanistan, where a man and a woman
were publicly stoned to death by the Taliban over an alleged love
This kind of deterrent punishment has been subject to criticism since
long throughout the non Muslim world. ‘Deterrent theory’ of punishment
has often justified such harsh kinds of punishment, but in spite of
the strict principles of ‘deterrent theory’ crime rate is still
growing. In most of the countries adultery had been historically
regarded as a legal wrong but it is not always considered as a crime.
It is perhaps only in Iran, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan that
adultery is punishable with death by stoning.
Legally speaking adultery is an external sexual relation outside the
bondage of marriage i.e. voluntary sexual intercourse by an individual
who is married with another individual who is not his/her spouse.
Under Islamic law ‘zina’ is the term which refers to extra marital or
pre marital sex. Extra marital sex refers to sexual intercourse by a
person (man or woman) with another to whom they are not married. Pre
marital sex is punishable by up to 100 lashes while adultery is
punishable with death by stoning (Rajm). However ‘Rajm’ as a
punishment for adultery has not been prescribed by ‘Quran’ but by the’
Hadiths’. Moreover the Quran only prescribes 100 lashes as a
punishment for adultery with certain restrictions on future marriage.
Adultery is also prohibited under the holy Bible .According to the
bible, “if a man commits adultery with another man’s wife or with his
neighbors wife, both he and the woman must be put to death for their
adultery” (Lev 20:10).According to Jesus, “anyone who looks at a women
lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mathew
In India under the ancient Hindu law, only the female spouse could be killed and
men were not heavily punished. According to the ancient laws laid down
in ‘manusmiriti’, “though destitute of virtue or seeking pleasure
elsewhere or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must be
constantly worshiped as a god by a faithful wife”. The wife is always
bound by her duties and if she violates her duties which she owes to
her husband then she can be punished severly even with death. However
the present position is different. Under section 497 of Indian Penal
Code, “Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rap, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall be punishable as an abettor.”
This section does not comes into play in case of a sexual intercourse
of a married man with a women who’s husband consents to such sex or
with a unmarried women or widow. There appears gender discrimination
in the legal provision for adultery, in the sense that women cannot be
prosecuted for adultery, only man is prosecutable even if he is
unmarried. The women can be punished only as an abettor. Section 497
considers adultery as an offence against the husband of the wife and
not against the wife. Thus it seems to be violating the equality
provision under Article 14 of the constitution of India.
However the supreme court of India in the case of ‘Yusuf Aziz’ held
that the legal provision for adultery under section 497 IPC is not
violative of Article 14 and is valid under Article 15(3) of the
constitution of India. In supreme courts view adultery is an offence
against the matrimonial home and not against the husband or wife.
Section 497 of IPC always treats the women as a victim of the offence.
However the reports of the “Malimath committee” and the Law commission
of India (42nd report) has recommended to redefine section 497 so as
to make women also punishable for adultery.
This article makes me: