Observing it is an avoidable human tragedy, Justice N. Kirubakaran of the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court Aug 27 suggested "if pre-marital clinical examination by doctors are done, it will not only prevent impotents from getting married, but (also) prevent marriages of people suffering from dangerous and incurable diseases".
He was hearing a petition seeking to quash proceedings pending against a man on a complaint by his wife under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005.
A Bangalore-based NGO Sunday said enacting law for both the groom and the bride is a must.
Many wives suffer silently about their husband's impotency due to social stigma
President of the NGO, Child Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP), Kumar V. Jahgirdar told IANS: "We welcome the high court interim observation that potency test should be made mandatory before marriage with the condition that the couple should be included in the test."
Justice Kirubakaran said: "The governments (both the central and the Tamil Nadu governments) could also think of including a provision for awarding compensation or punishment for suppression of impotency or frigidity."
Noting that women were the worst sufferers in such cases, the court said, "It violated the very basic human rights and right to decent and meaningful life."
Jahgirdar said: "I have seen a lot of couples filing impotency cases with one spouse complaining of being cheated. The pain lasts lifetime since majority of such cases are unreported and the victim suffers in silence."
He added: "However, enacting a law only for men to do the potency test is unconstitutional and gender-biased."
Swarup Sircar, head of Save Indian Family, Delhi, said impotency is related to psychological condition and hormone imbalance.
"In the Hindu Marriage Act, if the marriage is not consummated, the court can also make a decree declaring the marriage as null and void. But nobody believes that the wife can suffer due to impotency," he said.
Radha Krishna, a gynaecologist based in Bangalore, said many wives suffer silently about their husband's impotency due to social stigma. "The wife is always targeted for infertility, mainly by in-laws. So, examination of the couple before marriage is a must."
She, however, said infertility is different from impotency and added pre-marital counselling is needed since India lacks sex education at the school level.
Observing the high rate of impotency-related marriage failures, Justice Kirubakaran asked: "Whether state and central governments are aware of the social scourge and whether they are ready to amend marriage laws to fast-track matrimonial disputes?"
Quoting data of the Chennai family court, Justice Kirubakaran, who posted the matter for next hearing Sep 5, said the number of failed marriages due to impotency has increased to 715 in 2013 from 88 in 2009.
The court asked the government about steps being contemplated to address the "serious problem/human tragedy".
Jahgirdar said pre-marital counselling should be made mandatory to bring down the number of divorces, adding that divorce cases are increasing in Bangalore due to stress that leads to impotency.
"The government should not grant marriage certificate without pre-marriage counselling. It should take responsibility to save marriages," he said.