3 August, 2021

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Which Should Be Banned Adultery Or Polygamy? A Comparative Perspective

By Mass L. Usuf

Mass Usuf

It is argued that a world with above-board polygamy is probably better than one where it is driven underground. This is not about religion but addressing reality.  In other words, taking the bull by the horn. The New World Encyclopedia defines ‘Adultery’ as consensual sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than his or her lawful spouse. The synonym for adultery is infidelity as well as unfaithfulness or in colloquial speech, “cheating.”  Generally, marriage is considered an inviolable and a sacred commitment therefore, a violation of this  is strictly censured by society. Adultery has an impact on several people – the persons who are involved, the spouses of each person, their families, the future of children and the community at large. Adultery is considered sufficient cause for divorce.

Polygamy is the practice where a person is married to more than one woman. Unlike adultery, polygamy is practiced with the acceptance of society.  Polygamous union also affects all those mentioned above in an adulterous relationship. The difference is that a polygamous marriage provides legal protection for everyone.  It has to be noted that polygamy is not the rule but the exception to the rule on monogamy. Even within societies which allow polygamy, in actual practice it generally occurs only rarely. To maintain more than one wife requires extra resources: this may put polygyny beyond the means of many people nevertheless, it must be legalised for everyone in general.

Historical And Religious Comparison

Adultery was a social concern even during the time of the ancient Babylonian king Hammurabi (1792 B.C.). The famous Code of Hammurabi condemned  adulterous conduct and prescribed as punishment death by drowning or burning of the unfaithful spouse and the partner.

The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) of Moses also decreed prohibiting adultery “You shall not commit adultery. (Bible: Exodus 20:14, Deuteronomy 5:18). 

“Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and the adulterous.” (Bible: Hebrews 13:4).

The Bible also condemns with death the act of adultery. 

“If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.” (Deuteronomy 22:22).

In Jail or In Hell

Of the five cardinal Buddhist ethical practices, avoidance of sexual misconduct is the third. “Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami” (I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct).  Buddha said, “Evil adulterers shall suffer in Niraya (hell).  Even the brief time with the woman is filled with fear, the punishment is severe.”  (Dhammapada 309-10.)  Therefore, no man should frequent another man’s wife nor have illicit affairs.

In Islam, the Quran also states: “Approach not adultery: for it is a shameful deed and an evil, (opening the road to other evils).” (Chapter 17 Verse 32).  What the Quran states is that adultery will lead to other evils for example uttering lies denying the sexual misconduct. It is interesting to see what Buddha said: “One who tells lies goes to niraya (hell); one who has done evil and says “I did not do it” also goes to niraya. Both of them being evil-doers, suffer alike (in niraya) in their next existence.” (Dhammapada Verse 306).

Buddha speaking about the consequences of adultery states in the Soreyya story that “men who commit adultery suffer hell for hundreds of thousands of years after rebirth, then are reborn a hundred successive times as women on earth.” (Saddharmaratnavaliya – Portraits of Buddhist Women by Ranjini Obeyesekere)

In Hinduism “Offering presents to a woman, romping with her, touching her ornaments and dress, sitting with her on a bed, all these are considered adulterous acts.  (Laws of Manu 8.357).  “Winking at a woman, smiling at her, sending go-betweens to her, touching her ornaments or clothes,—is called Adultery of the first degree. Sending perfumes, garlands, fruits, wine, food or clothes, and conversing with her in secret, are regarded to be adulterous acts of the second degree. Sitting on the same bed, dallying, kissing or embracing each other,—is defined as Adultery of the highest degree.” (Bṛhaspati : 23.6-8).

Adultery Criminalised

The military of the United States of America prohibits adultery and names it a crime, as stated in Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The maximum punishment for Extramarital Sexual Conduct is a dishonourable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and confinement for up to one year.

Some sixteen States in America still criminalize adultery. The law of adultery in Minnesota is as cold as the state itself. If you are caught cheating, you can be fined up to 3000 dollars and even imprisonment for a year.  In Taiwan and Philippines, one could face jail terms for adultery.  In Taiwan for each adulterous act the person will be jailed for four months.  Taiwan’s Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai said she wants to do away with the law, but a 2013 survey conducted by the department found that 82.2% of respondents want the law to remain in place. (www.insider.com/ places-you-can-go-to-jail-fined-infidelity-laws).

The Case For Polygamy

Cheshire Calhoun Professor of Philosophy and Research Professor writes “Marriages are supposed to satisfy a plurality of individuals’ needs, including needs for sexual and emotional intimacy, reproduction, childrearing, and the care of adults’ material needs.”  When these expectations are not met, many marriages fail.” “The expectation that marriages will provide stable contexts for the rearing of children and the economic support of adults and long-term commitment to the marriage” are in danger. The door opens for extra-marital relationship.

“On the other side, polygamy advocates like the Mormon women, argue that plural marriage promised to solve the social problems created by the failure of monogamous marriage to supply both adequate sexual satisfaction for men and a stable reproductive environment for women and children.” ‘Mormon women argued that if only men were allowed to have plural wives, they would not be motivated to use prostitutes (or to divorce). Thus, fewer women would be degraded to work as prostitutes and fewer would suffer the hardships of bearing children out of wedlock or of being left without adequate economic support.’ (Who’s Afraid of Polygamous Marriage?  San Diego Law Review).

Evils Of Adultery

The family forms the nucleus of a society.  When that unit is damaged by infidelity the family suffers.  All the social norms, family traditions, the spiritual foundation of life and the unity of the family are lost. The Bhagavad Gita records, “Where there is no sense of unity, the women of the family become corrupt; and with the corruption of its women, society is plunged into chaos. Social chaos is hell for the family and for those who have destroyed the family as well. Those who destroy family traditions dwell in hell for an indefinite period of time. (Chapter 1:40-44)

Extra marital partnering is a complex engagement which impacts on the marriage life.  Personal health of the innocent spouse is at great risk by the exposure to sexually transmitted diseases due to the other’s sexual activity. The adulteress may become pregnant and give birth to an illegitimate baby.  Infanticides have been reported in such instances. Imagine the intense psychological and emotional state of the woman and the child from this secret relationship. 

It is possible that the woman is carrying her paramour’s child. Thereby burdening the legal husband to provide for another man’s child (without knowledge).  By this, the purity of the marriage and offsprings are corrupted and inheritance belonging to the legitimate children is also altered. We have heard of the plots and ploys of the guilty spouse against the innocent spouse sometimes ending in murder. Or, a husband seeing his wife on bed with another, provoked to commit homicide.

In a society where adultery is not a crime, the society as a whole suffers because of the unnatural disruption of the institution of marriage. By marriage the next generation is procreated and that generation must continue the lineage. It has to be a generation with dignity and not one where the paternity of an illegitimate child is not known. The society over a period of time will morally degenerate.  The decadence of a society will result in the death of the culture and religion of that nation.  All of these can be protected by allowing polygamy for everyone.

“Those who imagine wrong in what is not wrong, who do not see wrong in what is wrong, and who hold wrong views go to a lower plane of existence (duggati).” (Dhammmapada Verse 318).

Why not do the right thing?  Instead of banning a legal polygamous marriage why not criminalise adultery? 

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Latest comments

  • 2
    1

    Allow polygamy and limit free education and health services to two children.
    —-
    “All of these can be protected by allowing polygamy for everyone.”

    • 2
      1

      “Which Should Be Banned Adultery Or Polygamy?”

      Give me Adultery and Polygamy both! …… I can’t have enough!

      • 2
        0

        “Which Should Be Banned Adultery Or Polygamy?”

        Have the women got a say in this?

        In a modern society ……as an equal half of this shindig ……. for once let the women vote and decide for themselves.

        Let Mullahs, governments, religions, …….. full of frigid old men past their prime keep out!

        Who the bloody hell are they to decide ……. how the rest should have fun?

  • 8
    1

    Very confusing,

    Originally we were savages , taking men and women as we pleased. Our average life span was probably 20-30 years.

    Then with more social development we began to say one man one woman was a good concept, good for property inheritance too. Later , some religious men began to say a man could have more than one wife, provided he adheres to certain rules. It was already a practice then. These teachers were all men ,and it seems a men-centric idea. Women were chattel whose only function is to reproduce and look after the ageing man , her lord and provider. The religions put it differently, we are only protecting the poor women, who will then ascend to heaven .Virginity is considered a great prize.

    These ideas were mainly in the hot deserts of Arabia, the ideas later spread when most people in the world were ignorant and oppressed. The Arab countries for most of their existence were poor , until modern technology found oil and a use for it. They were also autocratic and authoritarian rulers. Women are definitely second class citizens,

    All religions give the usual excuse, ” that is not what the book says, if they follow the rules, we will have a righteous and prosperous world .

    • 3
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      ds
      Have you given thought to the well supported theory that the institution of marriage was an outcome of private property?

      • 3
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        DS,
        “The Arab countries for most of their existence were poor , until modern technology found oil and a use for it.”
        Certainly not. Baghdad was wealthier than London in mediaeval times. There are ruins of magnificent cities even in the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Perhaps it was oil Western greed for oil that reduced the less pliant countries to this state. You need to get rid of your misconceptions.

    • 1
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      “All religions give the usual excuse,” that is not what the book says, if they follow the rules, we will have a righteous and prosperous world.” Deepthi Silva

      Be informed that the Police Minister has decided to ensure that all females too over 18 yrs. undergo SL Military disciplinary Course. This is progress in the Presidents view????

  • 7
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    Polygamy must be banned. Only uncivilized societies have polygamy.

    Adultery is normal in peaceful and civilized societies.

    • 3
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      G
      So, do you say that the Prophet (PBUH) got it wrong?

  • 2
    1

    I often flirt with my neighbour’s wife and occasionally give her chocolates. Does that amount to an act of adultery?

    • 2
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      CM
      It depends on where the chocolates are shared.

  • 3
    1

    Companies in the EU may ban Muslim employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions, a top European court has ruled.

    The decision was made in a ruling on two cases brought by women in Germany who were suspended from their jobs for wearing one.

    “A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes,” the court said.

    https://www.dailymirror.lk/latest_news/EU-court-rules-headscarves-can-be-banned-at-work-under-certain-conditions/342-216264

  • 6
    2

    MASS USUF is a old man trying to keep his own women down and without their rights? trying to whitewash the archaic practices of a religion that has not evolved since 1400.. instead of religion evolving to help mankind, he is trying to keep the outdated and outlawed practice of poligamy. I hope he has no daughters as he will not allow them to sign, and carry out sexual circumcision’s/mutilations on them?

    “We endorse the decisions by the Cabinet of Ministers on key substantive issues relating to the MMDA:
    1) raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years without exceptions
    2) requiring the consent and signature of the bride to formalise a marriage
    3) allowing women Quazis and
    4) abolishing polygamy. “We also remind those reportedly opposing these Cabinet decisions, on the basis that they were not inclusively decided, that the stances on the minimum age of marriage, consent of brides and women as Quazis were also deliberated and agreed by a majority of Muslim MPs in 2019.

    https://www.ft.lk/news/Progressive-decisions-by-Cabinet-on-substantive-MMDA-reform-hailed/56-720472

    WINDS OF CHANGE ARE COMING FOR YOU USUF !!!

  • 2
    0

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/the-fate-of-another-muslim-child-marriage/

    F.S a young 18 year old Muslim girl is currently battling life threatening injuries after being tied to a chair, poured oil and set on fire by her abusive husband last Friday. She was four months pregnant and lost her baby. She is also the young mother of a 7-month old baby

  • 5
    1

    Mr.Usuf,
    “Polygamy is the practice where a person is married to more than one woman. ” Ok, you are for it, understandably. But why ban adultery? And why do you talk only about polyandry approvingly? What about Polyandry, where one woman is married to more than one man? In case some devout Sinhala Buddhists are getting ready to tear me to pieces, I must remind them that Polyandry is a Sinhala Buddhist practice.

    • 3
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      OC
      The female protagonist of Mahabharata had five husbands and when she heard that there was an older brother who had fallen in battle, she emotionally accepted him too as a husband.
      She is worshipped in many Indian cultures, and there are temples. There is one in the Eastern Province in Paandiruppu.
      If she committed ‘polyandry’ her mother was an adulteress who had six children by different divine males.
      Adultery and polyandry find reference in Mahabharata in other contexts too.
      All of that makes “Hinduism” more interesting than systems with a male God who never had sex, and took a rather negative view of it.

  • 3
    1

    Mass L. Usuf –

    Adultery or Polygamy?

    Polygamy is defined as marriage between one person and two or more spouses simultaneously.
    It exists in two main forms:

    polygyny, where one man is married to several women,

    and

    polyandry, where one woman is married to several men.

    Why Islam allows man getting married to0 three women and not to women getting married to three men. Then why restrict to three only?

    Once we decide on these moral issues then we could look at adultery

    • 0
      0

      Monogamy and virginity are advocated and even given religious sanctions to ensure that property is passed to one’s own offspring with certainty.
      These are all male centered concepts.
      Females are at the receiving end.

  • 3
    1

    The good Muslim is bending over backwards to have polygamy approved of and accepted in a Buddhist country. Bending over backwards is not a good position for polygamy, besides, will this polygamy law also apply to lesbians, transsexuals, bisexuals and all the other variations of human sexuality or just MPs?

  • 3
    0

    I living in Norway, born in Colombo. I had a work mate from Gana. His father was very wealthy and had a big coco farm. In his socity it is expected that he has several wifes. His village girls dreamed that they were one of his wifes. The girls wanted to get married to him to get secure life. They will be protected and get a comfortable life.

    This gentleman dint want several wife’s but his family demanded that he had several wife’s to secure his family industry. He has problems to explain his delama to Norwegians and Norwegian authorities and also bring all his wifes to Norway. The legal aspect scares him since he is working in Norway. I don’t know how his life went, whether he went back to Gana or still in Norway.

    I heard adultery has different meaning, in Iran I was told a person can be married to limited duration based on a agreed fee and officially get married and divorced with a cleargy

  • 3
    1

    Aw shucks Massusuf!
    What a spoil-sport. Can’t we have both, like on say alternate days of the week?

    • 1
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      K.D
      Adultery by day and Polygamy by night?

      • 1
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        OC
        That will suit a slightly younger person.

  • 0
    1

    Arthur quote religions as moral standards by which sexual relationship between man and woman be determined.
    Sexual act is a natural relationship between two consenting parties and there is no need of any religion to give it a validity.
    marriage between man and woman involve trust with regards to co habitation involving dwellings, social life, sex , and love. if any of them are breached whole institution of marriage is damaged.
    Right thing to do in this situation is end up the marriage amicably and move on with selected different pathways.
    In the name of marriage old wealthy man acquiring multiple women should not be given the definition of marriage. It is exploitation of women for ones selfish benefits including sexual intercourse. This should be condemned.

  • 2
    0

    “Which should be banned, Adultery or Polygamy ?”
    The way this question has been framed suggests that society has a choice in this matter ? It suggests that both are ‘bad’, but the questioner would like to know which is ‘less bad’ for society in general.
    The simple fact of the matter is that both have adverse impacts on society and immediate families.
    .
    Two individuals will enter into a polygamous relationship with expectations of enjoying a long-term relationship driven by a mutual need for such a symbiotic relationship and a full understanding of the ramifications of such an alliance.
    Two individuals will enter into an adulterous relationship driven primarily by an intense carnal desire for each other which very often renders them oblivious to or unconcerned about the consequences of such an alliance.
    .
    The permitting of one practice will not ensure the decline of the other in any society.
    There is no evidence that even in a Muslim-majority society which permits Polygamy, there is a total absence of Adultery.
    .
    The writer is trying to compare apples and oranges on the basis that both are fruits, but forgetting that the purposes of consumption may be different.

  • 1
    0

    Societies that have evolved most with its citizens being far more peaceful and progressive care two hoots for religion and the archaic guidelines that they promote. No two persons will ever be alike and one persons medicine is another persons poison. Let each live the way which suits that person so long as another is not offended and this world will be a more pleasant place, The need today is ways and means to reduce the world population which is the root cause of the mayhem we see around and if Gays and Lesbians are encouraged that would solve it to a certain extent whereas Polygamy would add to the mess further.

  • 4
    1

    Old Codger, after reading your comments I have been converted ! Islamic civilization is best ! In old days, in Arab countries people enjoyed freedoms and all were prosperous ! No slaves, no women in second class status , no exploitation, people were enlightened and all enjoyed middle class status ! An ordinary man could challenge the Mullah or the Sheik !

    Like in old Byzantium empire, what freedoms they conferred !

    Perhaps like the Anuradapura era ? Sorry I forgot , there are many weaknesses in the Sri Lankan culture unlike the Arab culture !

    Only the western culture spoilt it for the Arabs! Praying five times and extolling God is so liberating !

    You are an old Codger !

    • 1
      0

      DS,
      It isn’t my fault if you rely on Fox News for your version of history. Do you even know that the Alhambra in Spain was built by Muslims? Or that the words alcohol, alchemy, cipher,even Arrack are of Arabic origin? Do you even know how many stars have Arabic names? Do you even know who was trading with both China and Europe when Christians were burning witches?
      It is not my business to educate the ignorant. I am not a Muslim, and I am not a fan of some of their practices. But neither are you an European, so please stop being slavish and read up on other cultures.

    • 1
      0

      DS
      Were things any different in South Asia?
      Women were burnt alive on funeral pyres, even in the 20th Century.
      *
      BTW, FYI
      The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th Century.

  • 0
    0

    Rishard was known for many criminal acts during Chitanta time. Old King accused him that he snatched more lands in Mullaitivu than his family did. Ranil saved him from the 4/21 accusations. Royals have put him in prison to hide their part in 4/21. The child worked at his home died by burns. She was raped as habitual and previous incidents evident were present on her body. JMO did not see torturing evidence. Many Tamil, Sinhala MPs demanding for the truth. It has taken so long. Still his home has not released the reason, nor have denied if Rishard was there too when the girl was exploited. Muslim justice minister behaving worse than Hakeem while he was on the same. Why were these incidents not reported to police and parents in timely manner?

  • 0
    0

    Muslim MPs defending Qurbani in Mosques. After all they accepts it was not their religion to kill and make temple butcher shop. Never any god can feel happy if man does all crimes like Rishard and Hakeem doing and they cut the neck of animal, then the God start to think them are most innocent souls out his creations. That kind of explanation used Hitlers come to power, fooling Sinhala Modayas. You cannot use it for God. Unless Vaalaiththodam fires Rishard from his party, SJB members should fire Vaalaiththodam. Rishard’s party members voted for 20A & Pong Cing Bill.

  • 0
    0

    Many Muslim MPs defending Qurbani in Mosques. After all they accepts it was not their religion to kill and make temple butcher shop. Never any god can feel happy if man does all crimes like Rishard and Hakeem doing and they cut the neck of animal, then the God start to think them are most innocent souls out his creations. That kind of explanation used Hitlers come to power, fooling Sinhala Modayas. You cannot use it for God. Unless Vaalaiththodam fires Rishard from his party, SJB members should fire Vaalaiththodam. Rishard’s party members voted for 20A & Pong Cing Bill.

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