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This article is about the act of adultery or extramarital sex. For other uses, see Adultery (disambiguation). For a broad overview, see Religion and sexuality. Sex and the law
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Adultery (anglicised from Latin adulterium) is extramarital sex that is considered objectionable on social, religious, moral or legal grounds. Though what sexual activities constitute adultery varies, as well as the social, religious and legal consequences, the concept exists in many cultures and is similar in Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
Historically, many cultures have considered adultery a very serious crime. Adultery often incurred severe punishment, usually for the woman and sometimes for the man, with penalties including capital punishment, mutilation or torture. Such punishments have gradually fallen into disfavor, especially in Western countries from the 19th century. In most Western countries, adultery itself is no longer a criminal offense, but may still have legal consequences, particularly in divorce cases. For example, in fault-based family law jurisdictions, adultery almost always constitutes a ground for divorce and may be a factor in property settlement, the custody of children, the denial of alimony, etc. Adultery is not a ground for divorce in jurisdictions which have adopted a no-fault divorce model. In some societies and among certain religious adherents, adultery may affect the social status of those involved, and may result in social ostracism.
In countries where adultery is a criminal offense, punishments range from fines to caning and even capital punishment. Since the 20th century, criminal laws against adultery have become controversial, with international organizations calling for their abolition, especially in the light of several high profile stoning cases that have occurred in some countries. The head of the United Nations 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 Chandrakirana, has stated that: "Adultery must not be classified as a criminal offence at all". A joint statement by...
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