In Muslim countries that follow Sharia law for criminal justice, the punishment for adultery may be stoning. In some jurisdictions, having sexual relations with the king's wife or the wife of his eldest son constitutes treason. The term adultery refers to sexual acts between a married person and someone who is not that person's spouse.
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In criminal law , adultery was a criminal offence in many countries in the past, and is still a crime in some countries today. In family law , adultery may be a ground for divorce ,  with the legal definition of adultery being "physical contact with an alien and unlawful organ",  while in some countries today, adultery is not in itself grounds for divorce.
Extramarital sexual acts not fitting this definition are not "adultery" though they may constitute "unreasonable behavior", also a ground of divorce. Another issue is the issue of paternity of a child. The application of the term to the act appears to arise from the idea that "criminal intercourse with a married woman Some adultery laws differentiate based on the sex of the participants, and as a result such laws are often seen as discriminatory, and in some jurisdictions they have been struck down by courts, usually on the basis that they discriminated against women.
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The term adultery , rather than extramarital sex , implies a moral condemnation of the act; as such it is usually not a neutral term because it carries an implied judgment that the act is wrong. Adultery refers to sexual relations which are not officially legitimized; for example it does not refer to having sexual intercourse with multiple partners in the case of polygamy when a man is married to more than one wife at a time, called polygyny ; or when a woman is married to more than one husband at a time, called polyandry.
In archaic law, there was a tort of criminal conversation arising from adultery, "conversation" being an archaic euphemism for sexual intercourse. This tort has been abolished in almost all jurisdictions, but continues to apply, for example, in some states in the United States. Marital infidelity has been used, especially in the past, as a legal defence of provocation to a criminal charge, such as murder or assault. In some jurisdictions, the defence of provocation has been replaced by a partial defence or provocation or the behaviour of the victim can be invoked as a mitigating factor in sentencing.
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. Traditionally, many cultures, particularly Latin American ones, had strong double standards regarding male and female adultery, with the latter being seen as a much more serious violation. Adultery involving a married woman and a man other than her husband was considered a very serious crime. In , English Lord Chief Justice John Holt stated that a man having sexual relations with another man's wife was "the highest invasion of property" and claimed, in regard to the aggrieved husband, that "a man cannot receive a higher provocation" in a case of murder or manslaughter.
Legal definitions of adultery vary. 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. Blanchflower , it was held that female same-sex sexual relations did not constitute sexual intercourse, based on a definition from Webster's Third New International Dictionary ; and thereby an accused wife in a divorce case was found not guilty of adultery. In , Virginia prosecuted an attorney, John R.
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. Another tort, alienation of affection , arises when one spouse deserts the other for a third person. 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.
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Polyamory , meaning the practice, desire, or acceptance of intimate relationships that are not exclusive with respect to other sexual or intimate relationships, with knowledge and consent of everyone involved, sometimes involves such marriages. Swinging and open marriages are both a form of non-monogamy , and the spouses would not view the sexual relations as objectionable. However, irrespective of the stated views of the partners, extra-marital relations could still be considered a crime in some legal jurisdictions which criminalize adultery.
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 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.
In the United Kingdom, case law restricts the definition of adultery to penetrative sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, no matter the gender of the spouses in the marriage, although infidelity with a person of the same gender can be grounds for a divorce as unreasonable behavior; this situation was discussed at length during debates on the Marriage Same-Sex Couples Bill. In India, adultery is the sexual intercourse of a man with a married woman without the consent of her husband when such sexual intercourse does not amount to rape.
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It was a non-cognizable, non-bailable criminal offence, until the relevant law was overturned by the Supreme Court of India on 27 September Punishments for adultery vary from place to place. Where adultery is illegal, the punishment varies from fines for example in the US state of Rhode Island  to caning in parts of Asia.
Sometimes such stonings are ordered by informal village leaders who have de facto power in the community. For instance it may constitute fault in countries where the divorce law is fault based or it may be a ground for tort. In some societies the law punishes the "intruder", rather than the adulterous spouse.
For instance art of the Penal Code of South Sudan reads: "Whoever, has consensual sexual intercourse with a man or woman who is and whom he or she has reason to believe to be the spouse of another person, commits the offence of adultery [ Historically, paternity of children born out of adultery has been seen as a major issue. Modern advances such as reliable contraception and paternity testing have changed the situation in Western countries.
Most countries nevertheless have a legal presumption that a woman's husband is the father of her children who were born during that marriage. Children born out of adultery suffered, until recently, adverse legal and social consequences. In France , for instance, a law that stated that the inheritance rights of a child born under such circumstances were, on the part of the married parent, half of what they would have been under ordinary circumstances, remained in force until , when France was forced to change it by a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights ECtHR and in , the ECtHR also ruled that the new regulations must be also applied to children born before There has been, in recent years, a trend of legally favoring the right to a relation between the child and its biological father, rather than preserving the appearances of the 'social' family.
In , the ECtHR ruled in favor of a German man who had fathered twins with a married woman, granting him right of contact with the twins, despite the fact that the mother and her husband had forbidden him from seeing the children. The Standard Cross-Cultural Sample described the occurrence of extramarital sex by gender in over 50 pre-industrial cultures.
The occurrence of extramarital sex by men is described as "universal" in 6 cultures, "moderate" in 29 cultures, "occasional" in 6 cultures, and "uncommon" in 10 cultures.
The occurrence of extramarital sex by women is described as "universal" in 6 cultures, "moderate" in 23 cultures, "occasional" in 9 cultures, and "uncommon" in 15 cultures. In the Greco-Roman world , there were stringent laws against adultery, but these applied to sexual intercourse with a married woman. In the early Roman Law , the jus tori belonged to the husband.
It was therefore not a crime against the wife for a husband to have sex with a slave or an unmarried woman. The Roman husband often took advantage of his legal immunity. Thus we are told by the historian Spartianus that Verus , the imperial colleague of Marcus Aurelius , did not hesitate to declare to his reproaching wife: "Uxor enim dignitatis nomen est, non voluptatis. Later in Roman history, as William E.
Lecky has shown, the idea that the husband owed a fidelity similar to that demanded of the wife must have gained ground, at least in theory. Lecky gathers from the legal maxim of Ulpian : "It seems most unfair for a man to require from a wife the chastity he does not himself practice". According to Plutarch , the lending of wives practiced among some people was also encouraged by Lycurgus , though from a motive other than that which actuated the practice Plutarch, Lycurgus, XXIX. The recognized license of the Greek husband may be seen in the following passage of the pseudo-Demosthenic Oration Against Neaera :.
Husbands could kill the partners under certain circumstances and were required to divorce adulterous wives. Both Judaism and Christianity base their attitudes to adultery on passages in the Hebrew Bible Old Testament in Christianity , which firstly prohibits adultery in the Seventh Commandment : "Thou shalt not commit adultery. Leviticus subsequently prescribes capital punishment for adultery, but refers to adultery between a man and a married woman:.
And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. Significantly, the biblical penalty does not apply to sex if the woman is unmarried, otherwise it applies irrespective of the marital status of the man. That is, if the man was married while the woman was not, there would not be a death penalty for adultery under these passages. Though Leviticus prescribes the death penalty for adultery, the legal procedural requirements were very exacting and required the testimony of two eyewitnesses of good character for conviction.
The defendant also must have been warned immediately before performing the act. The death penalty for adultery was strangulation,  except in the case of a woman who was the daughter of a Kohain Aaronic priestly caste , which was specifically mentioned by Scripture by the death penalty of burning pouring molten lead down the throat. 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, many authorities say he must give her a divorce as if they were married. According to Judaism, the Seven laws of Noah apply to all of humankind; these laws prohibit adultery with another man's wife.
The Ten Commandments were meant exclusively for Jewish males. Sexual intercourse between an Israelite man, married or not, and a woman who was neither married nor betrothed was not considered adultery. David 's sexual intercourse with Bathsheba , the wife of Uriah, did not count as adultery. According to Jennifer Wright Knust, this was because Uriah was no Jew, and only Jewish men were protected by the legal code from Sinai. Adultery is considered by Christians immoral and a sin , based primarily on passages like Exodus and 1 Corinthians — Although 1 Corinthians does say that "and that is what some of you were.
But you were washed", it still acknowledges adultery to be immoral and a sin. Catholicism ties fornication with breaking the sixth commandment in its Catechism. Until a few decades ago, [ when? Adultery was decriminalized in Argentina in ,  and in Brazil in ;  but in some predominantly Catholic countries, such as the Philippines, it remains illegal.
The Book of Mormon also prohibits adultery. For instance, Abinadi cites the Ten Commandments when he accuses King Noah 's priests of sexual immorality.
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Some churches such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have interpreted "adultery" to include all sexual relationships outside of marriage , regardless of the marital status of the participants. Various conditions and punishments have been attributed to adultery. Under Islamic law , adultery in general is sexual intercourse by a person whether man or woman with someone to whom they are not married. Adultery is a violation of the marital contract and one of the major sins condemned by Allah in the Qur'an :.
Punishments are reserved to the legal authorities and false accusations are to be punished severely. According to Muhammad, an unmarried person who commits adultery or fornication is punished by flogging times; a married person will then be stoned to death. The Hindu Sanskrit texts present a range of views on adultery, offering widely differing positions.
Mandagadde Rama Jois translates verse 4. Rape is not considered as adultery for the woman, while the rapist is punished severely. Lesser punishment is recommended for consensual adulterous sex. It recommends a new married couple to remain sexually faithful to each other for life. It also accepts that adulterous relationships happen, children are born from such relationships and then proceeds to reason that the child belongs to the legal husband of the pregnant woman, and not to the biological father.