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Updated on October 6, 2014

The Marital relationship means the legally protected martial interest of one spouse to another which include marital obligations to another like companionship, living under the same roof, sexual relation and exclusive enjoyment of them to have children, their upbringing, services at home, support, affection, love, liking and so on. This Martial relationship is the basis on which societal structure stands and civilizations flourish. The biggest threat to Martial relationship is adultery which has been considered as felony under law and a sin in almost every religion.

The Hindu Dharmasastras (Religion) do not permit any act of sexual union outside the socially sanctioned marriage system. The life of a person in the phase of grihasthya (household life) has prescribed functions of prajaa (progeny for family), dharma (meeting religious goals), and kama (sensual and emotional pleasure). A serious breach of dharma occurs if there is any deviation like lesbianism, homosexuality, and adultery. The Bhagavad Gita commented that a corrupt woman would destroy the family value, resulting in the destruction of her family. According to the Vishnu Purana, if a man commits adultery, he will be severely punished in this birth as well as the next birth. Even offering of gifts or touching of the dress and ornaments of a woman constitutes an act of adultery. According to the ancient lawgiver, Manu (100 BCE to 100 CE), severe punishment was to be imposed on men and women indulging in samgrahana (adulterous acts). The Atharva Veda was against even having sinful thoughts. Manu had implored the king to free the kingdom from assault, adultery, theft, defamation, and violence so as to enjoy sovereignty and integrity. Hinduism recognizes the moral issues of adultery that cause degradation of family life as well as social disorder. Like in Hindu Religion almost every religion considered Adultery a Sin. The Hebrew Bible prohibits adultery in the seventh of the Ten Commandments and prescribes capital punishment for adultery between a man and married woman. In Judaism the Torah prescribes the death penalty for adultery. Adultery is considered by Christians to be immoral and a sin. Under Muslim law, Adultery is a violation of the marital contract and one of the major sins condemned by Allah in the Qur'an. In Muslims punishment for adultery is throwing stone on adulterous woman till her death. However there is no religion in world which considered Adultery a sin only against male adulterous.

Durex's Global Survey found that world wide 22% of people surveyed admitted to have had extramarital sex. What is your opinion?

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India has borrowed the concept of Adultery in its modern law frame from British rule and the same has been codified as an offence in Indian Penal Code 1860. Lord Macaulay has incorporated the Indian Penal Code within which, it is stated in Section 497 that a man who commits adultery with a married woman will be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years or with fine or with both. In that section adulterous married woman shall not be punishable as an abettor or otherwise. This section is gender bias as the right to take action in only available to the husband of adulterous woman. As the unmarried woman who commits adulterous act with the married man could not be punished, there are no rights available with the wife of adulterous man to take recourse against adulterous woman. Further only the male counterpart and not female will be punished for the act of adultery. There is on equity behind this differentiation and is an unjust law which is against the principle of natural justice. The Malimath Committee on Criminal Justice Reforms and the 42nd Report of the Law Commission of India recommended redefining Section 497 to make women also punishable for adultery. The Central Government accordingly has sought the views of all states in the country regarding the implementation of the said recommendations. However no amendments in Section 497 have been done by the Parliament till date.

Jurisprudence behind making adultery an offence is that a Criminal Intercourse with a married woman tends to adulterate the issue (children) of an innocent husband and thereby burdening the woman’s husband to support and provide for ‘another man's children’. The ‘purity of bloodline’ of the children born out of such adulterous relationships is lost, and the chain of inheritance (of property) gets altered due to such relations. Law was required to prevent this mischief of altering the chain of inheritance and secure the reason behind marriage (i.e. to ascertain the purity of a child), so that inheritance is not altered but remains with the husband of the woman concerned. As inheritance is related to husband, the wife has not been granted any protection or rights under law.

However this law is primitive and could not stand in the present scenario. The biggest flaw of this law is that it considered wife a property of husband, who shall depend on husband for his name as well as inheritance. But Women are now becoming independent and are on same footing with men. Amendments have been to done in Succession Law to make women entitled to have equal share in the ancestral property of his father and therefore women are now not dependent on their husbands for neither his surname nor his property.

Undoubtedly adultery if promoted or kept unregulated will led to impure family chain and whole societal structure will shattered. Further putting the responsibility of upbringing the child on the shoulder of a man who in not his natural father in against the principle of equity. But in that case law recognize adultery a valid ground for taking a divorce. The husband of adulterous woman can take a divorce and could get away with the responsibility of maintenance of both wife and child. If the Society thinks that there shall be some kind of penal punishment to prevent adulterous act so that societal structure shall remain intact then principle of equality shall be followed and all those who are indulged in adultery shall be punished equally without making differentiation in male or female. It’s a high time to either make provision to punish adulterous person without discriminating between male and female or omit the section all together. But in the present state this law is unlawful.

Stoning as punishment for Adultery (Among muslims who say sharia should be the law of the land, % who favour stoning as a punishment for adultery)

Southern Eastern Europe
Bosnia Herz
Central Asia
Southeast Asia
South Asia
Middle East North Africe
Palestinian Terre.


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