Why adultery, one’s ‘democratic right to love’, is needed to be dealt with reason, not brutality…
Adultery has been, and will continue to be a part of human existence, as long as has been the institution of marriage. Adultery produces intense emotions and creates conflict among the people involved, and between sexual desire and a sense of loyalty. Adultery has faced extensive challenges due to its criminalization or stigmatization by society.
The concept of adultery was born as a Judeo-Christian thought. The perception of adultery has varied greatly at different times, and varies in different cultures. The definition and consequences differ from person to person, based on a convergence of religion, culture, and legal jurisdiction, but the reason and the results are similar in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. In almost all religions and under religiously motivated laws, adultery is judged as illegal and immoral.
Adultery has been committed by people of all ages, casts, creeds and colors through the ages.
It has even found an important place in literature, including three plays of Shakespeare, widely regarded as the greatest English writer of all time. Those plays are “Othello”, “The Winter’s Tale”, and “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, where people’s perception of adultery plays a significant part; still, the plays successfully hide a deeper anxiety about the betrayal of women.
Alfred Kinsey (d. 1956) — an American biologist, professor of entomology, and founder of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction — conducted a comprehensive study that focused on adultery in America. Depending on studies, it was estimated that approximately 50 percent of all married males had some extramarital experience at some time during their married lives and 26 percent of females had extramarital sex by their forties.
In Western countries, adultery has been decriminalized, especially in the European Union, including Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Sweden. Whereas in other parts of the world, such as Asia and the Indian subcontinent, the scenario is completely different; adultery is still treated as a crime by the state and society. In the Philippines, adultery is considered a crime under the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines.
Adultery is treated most harshly, indeed sometimes barbarically, is Islam countries. In Saudi Arabia, adultery is treated as a capital crime, the punishment being stoning to death. In another Islamic country, Pakistan, adultery is a crime under the Hudood Ordinance and is punishable by death.
Islam prescribes ‘stoning to death’ as a punishment for adultery, established through the Hadith. The root of this punishment is the Qur’an. Quranic verses prohibiting adultery include:
- “Do not go near to adultery. Surely it is a shameful deed and evil, opening roads (to other evils).” [QS 17:32]
- “Say, ‘Verily, my Lord has prohibited the shameful deeds, be it open or secret, sins and trespasses against the truth and reason.”‘ [QS 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.” [QS 24:26]
In Matthew’s gospel, Christianity puts forth a more conservative view of adultery, saying: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. (Matthew 5:28)
Many people suffer on daily basis because of stigmatization or criminalization of extramarital relationships and adultery. A young Christian woman shared with me the following: “My husband has lived abroad for many years. I don’t know when he will be able to come back or when I will go to him. I have sexual desires. I don’t feel bad having sex with someone other than my husband, no matter what religion’s and society’s reasoning is.”
Another young woman shared with me the following: “I was bound to get married when I was 16. I didn’t even know what sex was. I was forced to be in bed with a person I didn’t know, and the wild man jumped at me and got his satisfaction, even though it hurt me. I never felt loved by him. Whatever others may say, I am free to enjoy my life and I am doing that. You can call that adultery. I am ready to be called an adulteress if you consider my love as adultery.”
Yet another young woman informed of how unsatisfied she is in sex her husband. She said: “I have no way to find a better life partner. I cannot think of loving or being loved by one person.”
Henry Louis Mencken said, “Adultery is the application of democracy to love.”
Nations should formulate laws and moral ethics more rationally and sympathetically concerning adultery, so that people will not have to face anguishing situations, even brutality, such as in Islamic countries, over using their ‘‘democratic right to love”.