ADULTERY


Adultery (also called philandery, anglicised from Latin adulterium) is sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than the spouse. Religious and legal interpretations of what constitutes adultery vary widely.
The term adultery has an Abrahamic origin, though the concept predates Judaism and is found in many other societies. The definition and consequences vary between religions, cultures, and legal jurisdictions, but the concept is similar in Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.
Historically, adultery has been considered to be a serious offense by many cultures. Even in jurisdictions where adultery is not itself a criminal offense, it may still have legal consequences, particularly in divorce cases. For example, where there is fault-based family law, it almost always constitutes grounds for divorce; depending on jurisdiction, it may be a factor to consider in a property settlement, the custody of children, the denial of alimony, etc. Moreover, adultery can affect the social status of those involved, and result in social ostracism in some parts of the world.
In countries where adultery is illegal, the punishments range from fines to the death penalty. In the 21st century, criminal laws against adultery have become very controversial, with international organizations calling for their abolition, especially in the light of several high profile stoning cases that have recently occurred in certain countries. Opponents of these laws cite the fact that adultery laws are a major contributor to discrimination and violence against women, as they are enforced selectively mostly against women; that they prevent women from reporting rape and sexual violence; and that they maintain social norms which justify violent crimes committed against women by husbands, families and communities. The head of the U.N. expert body charged with identifying ways to eliminate laws that discriminate against women or are discriminatory to them in terms of implementation or impact, Kamala Chandrakiran, has stated that: “Adultery must not be classified as a criminal offence at all”. A joint statement by the United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice states that: “Adultery as a criminal offence violates women’s human rights”.
Three recent studies in the United States, using nationally representative samples, have found that about 10–15% of women and 20–25% of men admitted to having engaged in extramarital sex. Other studies in the US have higher numbers
In the traditional English common law, adultery was a felony. 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.” North Carolina defines adultery as occurring when any man and woman “lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed, and cohabit together.” Minnesota law provides: “when a married woman has sexual intercourse with a man other than her husband, whether married or not, both are guilty of adultery.” As recently as 2001, Virginia prosecuted an attorney, John R. Bushey of Luray, for adultery, a case that ended in a guilty plea and a $125 fine. Adultery is against the governing law of the U.S. military.
In common-law countries, adultery was also known as “criminal conversation”. This became the name of the civil tort arising from adultery, being based upon compensation for the other spouse’s injury. Criminal conversation was usually referred to by lawyers as “crim. con.”, and was abolished in England in 1857, and the Republic of Ireland in 1976. Another tort, alienation of affection, arises when one spouse deserts the other for a third person. This act was also known as desertion, which was often a crime as well. A small number of jurisdictions still allow suits for criminal conversation and/or alienation of affection. Because of its abuse, at least one jurisdiction (Nevada) has abolished the tort of alienation of affection and has made it a misdemeanor crime to file such a lawsuit.
A marriage in which both spouses agree ahead of time to accept sexual relations by either partner with others is sometimes referred to as an open marriage or the swinging lifestyle. Both are a form of non-monogamy, and the spouses would not view the sexual relations as adultery, although it could still be considered a crime in some legal jurisdictions.
In Canada, though the written definition in the Divorce Act refers to extramarital relations with someone of the opposite sex, a British Columbia judge used the Civil Marriage Act in a 2005 case to grant a woman a divorce from her husband who had cheated on her with another man, which the judge felt was equal reasoning to dissolve the union.
Durex’s Global Sex Survey has found that worldwide 22% of people surveyed have had extramarital sex.
A 2010 scientific review of international published studies of paternal discrepancy found a range in incidence from 0.8% to 30% (median 3.7%), suggesting that the widely quoted figure of 10% of non-paternal events is an overestimate.
For various reasons, most couples who marry do so with the expectation of fidelity. Adultery is often seen as a breach of trust and of the commitment that had been made during the act of marriage. Adultery can be emotionally traumatic for both spouses and often results in divorce. However, in a new work, The New Rules by Dr Catherine Hakim, a French sociologist and author, she argues that a “sour and rigid English view” of infidelity is condemning millions of people to live frustrated “celibate” lives with their spouses. She argues that there is such a thing as a “successful affair” in which both parties are happier but no one gets hurt: “Sex is no more a moral issue than eating a good meal,” she writes. “The fact that we eat most meals at home with spouses and partners does not preclude eating out in restaurants to sample different cuisines and ambiences, with friends or colleagues.”
Adultery may lead to ostracization from certain religious or social groups.
Adultery can also lead to feelings of guilt and jealousy in the person with whom the affair is being committed. In some cases, this “third person” may encourage divorce (either openly or subtly). If the cheating spouse has hinted at divorce in order to continue the affair, the third person may feel deceived if that does not happen. They may simply withdraw with ongoing feelings of guilt, carry on an obsession with their lover, may choose to reveal the affair, or in rare cases commit violence or other crimes.
Since adultery can lead to divorce, it may have long-term consequences for children in the family. Children of divorcees are twice as likely to have problems as adults with mental illness, substance abuse, and failed relationships.
If adultery leads to divorce, it also carries higher financial burdens. For example, living expenses and taxes are generally cheaper for married couples than for divorced couples. Legal fees can add up into the tens of thousands of dollars. Divorced spouses may not qualify for benefits such as health insurance, which must then be paid out-of-pocket.
Like any sexual contact, adultery may result in sexually-transmitted diseases. Since most married couples do not routinely use barrier contraceptives, the cheating spouse is very likely to transmit any infection to their unwitting spouse. This is a form of physical victimization that extends beyond the emotional and social consequences often associated with infidelity. Adultery is still illegal in some jurisdictions, such as Wisconsin, where it is a felony.

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