Adultery is the voluntary
sexual intercoursebetween a married person and another person who is not his or her spouse, though in many places it is only considered adultery when a married woman has sexual relations with someone who is not her husband. In most cases, in western countries, only the married party is said to have committed adultery, and if both parties are married (but not to each other) then they both commit separate acts of adultery. In other countries, both parties to the adultery are considered guilty, while in others again only the woman is able to commit adultery and to be considered guilty.
Adultery is also referred to as
extramarital sex, philandary or infidelitybut does not include fornication. The term "adultery" for many people carries a moral or religious association, while the term "extramarital sex" is morally or judgmentally neutral.
The interaction between laws on adultery with those on
rapehas and does pose particular problems in societies which are especially sensitive to sexual relations by a married woman, such as some Muslimcountries. [For example, Pakistanand Saudi Arabia.] The difference between the offenses is that adultery is voluntary, while rape is not. If a woman claims that she has been raped, and the offense cannot be proved, then a conclusion that the sexual relations were voluntary may be drawn, and the consequences of adultery may result, including an honour killing. In those circumstances, a woman victim would be reluctant to report a rape against her.
The term adultery has a Judeo-Christian origin, though the concept of marital fidelity predates Judaism and is found in many other societies. Though the definition and consequences vary between religions, cultures and legal
jurisdictions, the concept is similar in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and Hinduism has a similar concept. But the word should be used cautiously when discussing various cultures, some of which permit less permanent forms of marriage, or even sexual "lending". [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9003806/adultery Encyclopedia Britannica Online, "Adultery"] ]
Historically, adultery has been considered to be a serious offense by many cultures. In some countries, adultery is a
crime. However, even in jurisdictions where adultery is not itself a criminal offense, it may still have legal consequences, particularly in divorcecases. For example it may constitute grounds for divorce, it may be a factor to consider in a property settlement, it may affect the statusof children, the custodyof children, etc. Moreover adultery can result in social ostracism in some parts of the world.
Three recent studies in the United States, using nationally representative samples, have found that about 10-15% of women and 20-25% of men had engaged in
extramarital sex.Clements, M. (1994, August 7). Sex in America today: A new national survey reveals howour attitudes are changing. Parade Magazine, 4-6.] Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T, & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.] [Wiederman, M. W. (1997). Extramarital sex: Prevalence and correlates in a national survey. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 167-174.]
The word "adultery" originates not from "adult", as is commonly thought, but from the
Late Latinword for "to alter, corrupt": "adulterare". [ [www.etymonline.com etymonline.com] ]
"Adulterare" in turn is formed by the combination of "ad" ("towards"), and "alter" ("other"), together with the
infinitiveform "are" (making it a verb). Thus the meaning is literally "to make other". In contrast, the word "adult" (meaning a person of mature years) comes from another Latin root, "adolescere", meaning to grow up or mature: a combination of "ad" ("towards"), "alere" ("to nourish", "to grow"), and the inchoative infix"sc" (meaning "to enter into a state of"). [ [www.etymonline.com etymonline.com] ]
Although the legal definition of "adultery" differs in nearly every legal system, the common theme is sexual relations outside of marriage, in one form or another.
For example, New York defines an adulterer as a person who "engages in sexual intercourse with another person at a time when he has a living spouse, or the other person has a living spouse." [ with the wife of his neighbor.
Jesus taught that indulgence in adulterous thoughts could be just as harmful to the soul as actual adultery, though it cannot be inferred that both carry the same weight of guilt:
:"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." ()
Torahprescribes the death penalty by stoningfor adultery, the legal procedural requirements were very exacting and required the testimony of two witnesses of good character for conviction. In practice, nobody is convicted of adultery.
At the civil level, however, Jewish law (halakha) forbids a man to continue living with an adulterous wife, and he is obliged to divorce her. Also, an adulteress is not permitted to marry the adulterer, but, to avoid any doubt as to her status as being free to marry another or that of her children, he must give her a divorce as if they were married.
Also, Jewish law recognizes the "law of the land" in these matters, so that if the law of the land has greater restrictions, then they will also apply.
Under Muslim law, adultery (as is
premarital sexand extramarital sexin general) is sexual intercourseby a married person, whether man or woman. Adultery is a violation of the marital contract and one of the major sins and is condemned by God in the Qur'an. It should be noted that adultery is usually used by Muslims to mean Zinawhich means both extramarital and premarital sex. For example, in the translated versions of the Qur'anand Hadith'adultery' always translates back to 'Zina', except for some rare cases in the Hadith.
Qur'anic verses prohibiting adultery include:
:"Do not go near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and evil, opening roads (to other evils)" (Quran 17:32).
:"Say, 'Verily, my Lord has prohibited the shameful deeds, be it open or secret, sins and trespasses against the truth and reason"' (Quran 7:33).
:"Women impure are for men impure, and men impure are for women impure and women of purity are for men of purity, and men of purity are for women of purity." (Quran 24:26)
Though strict Muslim law prescribes severe punishments for extramarital sex, by both men and women (premarital sex is punishable with up to 100 lashes, while
adulteryis punishable by stoning), to obtain conviction, the act of sexual penetrationmust be attested by at least four male Muslim witnesses of good character, with the accused having a right to testify and their testimony given the most weight in the eyes of the judge(s). Also, punishments are reserved to the legal authorities and false accusations are to be punished severely. [ [http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/024.qmt.html www.usc.edu] ] [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/ww2/A5838410 www.bbc.co.uk] ] It has been said that these legal procedural requirements were instituted to make it impossible to obtain conviction. [ [http://www.asmasociety.org/perspectives/article_8.html www.asmasociety.org] ]
Other historical practices
Historically, adultery was rigorously condemned and punished, usually only as a violation of the husband's rights. Among such peoples the wife was commonly reckoned as the property of her spouse, and adultery was therefore identified with theft. But it was theft of an aggravated kind, as the property which it would spoliate was more highly appraised than other chattels. It is not the seducer alone who suffers.
Severe penalties were imposed on an adulterous wife by her husband. In many instances she is made to endure a bodily mutilation which will, in the mind of the aggrieved husband, prevent her from ever being a temptation to other men again (Schoolcraft, "Historical and Statistical Information Respecting the History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States", I, 236; V, 683, 684, 686; also H.H. Bancroft, "The Native Races of the Pacific States of North America", I, 514).
If, however, the wronged husband could visit swift and terrible retribution upon the adulterous wife, the latter was allowed no cause against the unfaithful husband; and this discrimination found in the practices of ancient peoples is moreover set forth in nearly all ancient codes of law.
Laws of Manuof ancient India, for example, said: "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"; on the other, hand, "if a wife, proud of the greatness of her relatives or [her own] excellence, violates the duty which she owes to her lord, the king shall cause her to be devoured by dogs in a place frequented by many." (Laws of Manu, V, 154; VIII, 371)
Most western countries have de-criminalised adultery. Adultery is not a crime in most countries of the
European Union, including Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finlandor Sweden.
United States, laws vary from state to state. In those States where adultery is still on the statute books, even though they are rarely prosecuted, the penalties vary from life sentence( Michigan) [ [http://web.archive.org/web/20070206173058/http://freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070115/COL04/701150333 Adultery could mean life, court finds ] at web.archive.org] , 2 years imprisonment ( Pennsylvania), or a fine of $10 ( Maryland). In the U.S. Military, adultery is a potential court-martialoffense. [ [http://usmilitary.about.com/od/justicelawlegislation/a/adultery.htm Adultery in the Military ] at usmilitary.about.com] The enforceability of adultery laws in the United States has been / is being questioned following Supreme Court decisions since 1965 relating to privacy and sexual intimacy of consenting adults, in cases such as " Lawrence v. Texas".
In some countries, including
Korea, and Taiwan, adultery continues to be a crime, though prosecutions are very rare.
Adultery had at one time attracted severe sanctions, including the
death penalty. In some places, such as Iran, the method of punishment for adultery is stoningto death. [ [http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331032591&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull 9 Iranians convicted of adultery] .] It has been suggested that Iranian officials are avoiding imposing the penalty because of social objections. Proving adultery under Muslim law can be a very difficult task as it requires the accuser to produce four eye witnesses to the act of sexual intercourse, each of whom should have a good reputation for truthfulness and honesty. The criminal standards do not apply in the application of social and family consequences of adultery, where the standards of proof are not as exacting.
Pakistan, adultery is a crime under the Hudood Ordinance. The Ordinance sets a maximum penalty of death, although only imprisonmentand corporal punishmenthave ever actually been imposed. The Ordinance has been particularly controversial because it requires a woman making an accusation of rapeto provide extremely strong evidence to avoid being charged with adultery herself. A conviction of a man for rape is only possible with evidence from no less than four witnesses. In recent years high-profile rape cases in Pakistan have given the Ordinance more exposure than similar laws in other countries. [ [http://www.dawn.com/2005/07/13/nat2.htm Hudood laws open to change in Pakistan] , July 2005] Similar laws exist in some other Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
Indian law, adultery is defined as sex between a man and a woman without the consent of the woman's husband. The man is prosecutable and can be sentenced for up to 5 years (even if he himself was unmarried) whereas the married woman can not be jailed [ [http://www.helplinelaw.com/docs/criminallaw/adultry.php WHAT AMOUNTS TO ADULTERY ] at www.helplinelaw.com] . Men have called the law gender discriminationin that women cannot be prosecuted for adultery [ [http://www.rediff.com/news/2003/aug/12adultery.htm 'Adultery law must apply equally to men and women' ] at www.rediff.com] and the National Commission of Women has criticized the British era law of being anti-feminist as it treats women as the property of their husbands and has consequentially recommended deletion of the law or reducing it to a civil offense. The Government is yet to act [ [http://www.hindu.com/2006/12/26/stories/2006122603270900.htm The Hindu : National : NCW rejects proposal to punish women for adultery ] at www.hindu.com] . Extramarital sex without the consent of one's partner can be a valid grounds for monetary penalty on government employees, as ruled by the Central Administrative Tribunal [ [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/CAT_penalises_cop_living_with_lover/articleshow/2786991.cms CAT penalises cop living with lover-Delhi-Cities-The Times of India ] at timesofindia.indiatimes.com] .
In addition, adultery has been grounds for
divorceunder fault-based divorce laws.
In the original
Napoleonic Code, a man could ask to be divorced from his wife if she committed adultery, but the philanderyof the husband was not a sufficient grounds for divorce unless he had kept his concubinein the family home.
Canadianlaw, adultery is defined under the Divorce Act. Though the written definition sets it as extramarital relations with someone of the opposite sex, the Civil Marriage Actgave grounds for a British Columbiajudge to strike that definition down. In a 2005 case of a woman filing for divorce, her husband had cheated on her with another man, which the judge felt was equal reasoning to dissolve the union.
Apart from criminal consequences, historically adulterers have suffered from society's disapproving attitudes toward them. The nature of these attitudes vary widely depending on local culture, religion and values, and how seriously the adulterer regards the opinions of others.
* [http://divorcelaw.legaldictionaries.org/ADULTERY Definition of Adultery] Collection of legal definitions
* Best Practices: Progressive Family Laws in Muslim Countries (August 2005} [http://usinfo.state.gov/mena/img/assets/4756/121305_muslim_family_laws.pdf] Dead link|date=July 2008
* Hamowy, Ronald. "Medicine and the Crimination of Sin: "Self-Abuse" in 19th Century America". pp2/3 [https://www.mises.org/journals/jls/1_3/1_3_8.pdf]
* Moultrup, David J. (1990). Husbands, Wives & Lovers. New York: Guilford Press.
* Glass, S. P., & Wright, T. L. (1992). Justifications for extramarital relationships: The association between attitudes, behaviors, and gender.
Journal of Sex Research, 29, 361-387.
Jack Goody" [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0007-1315(195612)7%3A4%3C286%3AACATIA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-M A Comparative Approach to Incest and Adultery] " The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1956), pp. 286-305 doi:10.2307/586694
* Pittman, F. (1989). Private Lies. New York: W. W. Norton Co.
* Rubin, A. M., & Adams, J. R. (1986). Outcomes of sexually open marriages. Journal of Sex Research, 22, 311-319.
* Vaughan, P. (1989). The Monogamy Myth. New York: New Market Press.
* Blow, Adrian J, Hartnett, Kelley. (Apr 2005). Infidelity in Committed Relationships I: A Methodological Review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3658/is_200504/ai_n13641667 INFIDELITY IN COMMITTED RELATIONSHIPS I: A METHODOLOGICAL REVIEW | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy | Find Articles at BNET ] at www.findarticles.com
* Blow, Adrian J, Hartnett, Kelley. (Apr 2005). Infidelity in Committed Relationships II: A Substantive Review. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3658/is_200504/ai_n13641677 INFIDELITY IN COMMITTED RELATIONSHIPS II: A SUBSTANTIVE REVIEW | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy | Find Articles at BNET ] at www.findarticles.com
Adultery in literature
Family therapy/ Relationship counseling
Incidence of monogamy
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