New Law Punishes Husbands Who Are “Jealous” or “Indifferent”

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A law passed this month in Mexico imposes criminal penalties on men who are "jealous" or who are "indifferent" toward their wives.  The law would likely violate the Equal Protection Clause in the U.S. because it applies only to husbands and not wives, but Mexican prosecutors were quoted as saying the disparate treatment was necessary in order to "level the playing field" for women because of domestic violence.

The law apparently is meant to stop abusive treatment before it starts by punishing the allegedly pre-abusive conduct of jealousy, indifference, and/or "lack of love."  But the definitions given of these offenses by the prosecutor were very broad.  Special Prosecutor Alicia Elena Perez Duarte said that men who "phone their wives every half an hour to check up on them, constantly suspect them of infidelity or try to control the way they dress" are committing the "crime of jealousy."  A man who stops talking to his wife, refuses to have sex or tells his wife she is "crazy" to think he is having an affair (even if she catches him having one) would be guilty of "indifference."  The law suggests a penalty of up to five years in prison for these offenses, although individual states will set the punishments.

Thus, under the new law, it appears to be criminal either to call your wife too often or to not call her enough.  Men are used to these kinds of dilemmas, but we typically don’t face five years in jail for getting it wrong.

While domestic violence is a serious problem in Mexico (and many other places, of course, such as in a room where you try to tell your wife she is "crazy" to think you are having an affair when she has just caught you having one), the approach taken by this law, at least as Perez Duarte defined it, seems pretty Draconian.  But she reiterated it was necessary to act early because of what the early conduct can lead to — and the way she described it, it’s a pretty darn slippery slope: "If we do not stop this from the beginning," she said, "it turns into beatings, and the beatings turn into more beatings and rape, until it gets out of hand, and whoops, she died."

I’m not making light of the problem, just suggesting the law could devote a little more scrutiny to the links between "we don’t talk enough" and "whoops, she died."

Link: Reuters via Yahoo! News.