Can Sexless Marriage Be Grounds For Divorce In India?

Law
15-Feb-2024
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Sex is an essential component of a close relationship between couples in a marriage. A marriage that lacks sexual intimacy is called a sexless marriage.

It is critical to realize that a brief break from sexual activity does not equate to a sexless marriage. Rather, there must have been no sexual activity for at least a year.  A potential cause of sexless marriage can result from several factors, such as health problems, emotional distance, and communication difficulties.

Examining the social and psychological viewpoints around sexless marriages demonstrates the factors influencing these partnerships. In addition to psychological elements like stress, mental health issues, and individual variations in sexual appetites, societal standards, cultural expectations, and gender roles also play a part in the complexity of these relationships.

Couples must comprehend these viewpoints to facilitate possible solutions for a more satisfying relationship while handling the complexities of a sexless marriage. This article discusses the causes and issues of sexless marriage and divorce in detail.

Can Sexless Marriage Be Grounds for Divorce in India?

The failure of a marriage is generally seen as taboo in Indian society because our society considers marriage as a lifelong relationship.

While sexless marriage might not be legally a ground for divorce it might be taken into account under general headings. This is particularly true if the lack of sexual closeness is associated with problems like cruelty, impotence, or other circumstances that legally justify divorce.

In India, a marriage that is voidable due to impotence is regarded as one of the main causes of a sexless marriage divorce.

Even though society's opinion alters, it is still important to consult a legal professional to learn the precise laws that apply to your situation.

Is Proof of Impotency Required?

In many countries, including India, impotence is seen as a legitimate cause for ending a marriage, making it a vital element in divorce proceedings. According to Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 if impotency is proven then without a doubt divorce is provided to the couple.

There are two categories of impotency: mental and physical

When a person has a physical deformity that prevents them from fulfilling their marital commitments, such as a small vagina or an oversized male organ, it is known as physical impotence. Conversely, moral or psychological aversions to sexual activity prevent a person from consummating a marriage and lead to mental or psychological impotence.

The only exception is if the impotence is treatable; in those circumstances, the victim cannot take legal action.

Proof of impotency can be established through medical examination, the conduct of the parties post-marriage, or the uncorroborated testimony of the petitioner if deemed plausible. 

Remember refusing sexual intercourse alone does not signify impotency; consistent refusal coupled with an unwillingness to undergo a medical examination can, however, indicate impotency.

Legal Challenges Faced by Individuals Seeking Divorce on These Grounds

Individuals who file for divorce on the grounds of a sexless marriage may face several legal obstacles along the way. To effectively navigate these legal hurdles, one must have a comprehensive awareness of the relevant legislation in the jurisdiction, seek legal advice from professionals, and submit evidence of a sexless marriage with care.

The following are a few possible legal challenges:

1. Burden of Proof: It might be difficult to prove a sexless marriage because it sometimes necessitates proof of the absence of sexual closeness. Courts could need strong evidence to support the assertion.

2. Subjectivity of Sexual Satisfaction: It can be difficult to define what makes a marriage sexless. Different people could have different ideas on what constitutes a pleasant sexual relationship.

3. Consideration of Other Grounds: In addition to sexlessness, courts may consider other grounds for divorce, such as cruelty, mental health problems, or an irreversible disintegration of the marriage.

4. Mediation and Counseling Requirements: Certain legal jurisdictions require mediation or counseling before issuing a divorce decree. This might slow down the process and force couples to look into possibilities for reconciliation.

5. Public Policy Considerations: Given the possible influence on society's norms and values, courts might be hesitant to give divorces based only on sexless marriages.

6. Social Stigma: When someone files for divorce due to a lack of sexual intimacy, they may come under social scrutiny, which can complicate the legal process emotionally and psychologically.

7. Privacy Issues: Privacy concerns may arise for individuals undergoing a sexless marital divorce while discussing personal information in a public courtroom.

Landmark Judgment

In July 2023, the Delhi High Court declared that depriving a husband of sex for an extended period without any reason qualifies as mental cruelty and can result in divorce.

The man filed for divorce from his wife after she forbade him from having sex with her for 4.5 years. The court then rendered a decision on his petition. Noting that these accusations were never formally contested, the high court awarded him a divorce decree.

The bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani states “We believe that the husband has sufficiently demonstrated his efforts, although living under the same roof, her wife mistreated him mentally by refusing to have sex with him for an extended period without providing any explanation and even though she had no physical impairment”.

A similar judgment was passed by the Delhi High Court in 2012 for a man whose spouse denied him sex on their wedding night. When Justice Gambhir ruled that the wife's decision to refuse her husband sex constituted cruelty, the news was widely reported.

Nonetheless, the high court acknowledged that the value placed on sex differs from couple to couple and that it has its limitations as a measure of marital success.

Although it is not by default, an unconsummated marriage may become such if one of the spouses files a court petition. This allows for the possibility of lawful sexless or unconsummated marriages.

Famous Cases

Some of the notable cases related to divorce due to Sexless Marriages are as follows:

Case 1:

The Nagpur Family Court came to the aid of a laborer living in the city and awarded him a divorce in May 2016 based on mental cruelty. However, the court noted concisely that his wife had abandoned him, forcing him to live a life devoid of sexual relations for years.

It has come to light that the wife mentally abused her spouse. Judge Subhash Kafre stated, "She left the petitioner's company in April 2007 and forced him to live a sexless life for years together.

The court also criticized the wife for leveling baseless charges against her husband without offering sufficient and convincing proof to support them. "She accused him of being abducted, among other baseless, offensive, and defamatory claims.

After filing a fake report of kidnapping, the spouse was detained for 14 days before being freed due to a lack of proof. He was in mental pain as a result of her concerns. Hence, the court decided to accept the man's request for a divorce but rejected the fictitious accusations brought by her.

Case 2: Murikinati Sahitya Reddy vs Sura Rajasekhara Reddy

In the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the petitioner attempted to proclaim the respondent's impotence as the reason to nullify their marriage.

The respondent's admission of impotence caused issues for the petitioner and respondent, who have been married since December 14, 2018. Due to the petitioner's failure to complete the one-year separation criteria, the mutual divorce application was denied.

The petitioner relocated to Germany in search of employment. Under Section 12(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, the petitioner filed F.C.O.P. No.11 of 2022, claiming nullity.

Citing noncompliance with statutory criteria, the Family Court dismissed it. Relevant evidence was the petitioner's uncontested and acknowledged proof of the respondent's impotence. The earlier ruling was set aside by the appeal, which authorized a divorce order.

Conclusion

Navigating a sexless marriage is undoubtedly a complex and challenging journey for any couple. The decision to pursue a divorce due to this particular issue is deeply personal and often reflective of a broader array of underlying concerns.

It is crucial for individuals facing such a predicament to prioritize open communication, seek professional guidance, and explore all possible avenues for resolution before reaching a definitive conclusion.