According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, adultery is described as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and someone other than that person’s current spouse or partner”. The act of adultery has existed from the beginning of human civilization in different forms and in different societies and religions. There might be a slight modification and understanding regarding the definition of adultery in each religion, but every culture treats adultery as a sin. Similarly, Judaism and Hinduism treat adultery as a hateful act and considers it a sin. Judaism which is the religion of Jewish people have a bigger population of followers in United States and Israel. Whereas Hinduism, one of the oldest religions in the world, is practiced especially in South Asian countries like India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
In traditional Judaism, marriage is seen as a sacred act where the bond between a man and woman is created by God, also called “bashert”. It is believed that after marriage a single soul merges with another single soul, and therefore there is a formation of a complete soul. It is believed that the complete soul should be together for life until one of the souls is taken away by any natural cause, for instance, death. And during the marriage life, it is expected that both the husband and wife should be faithful to each other and respect the spiritual relationship created in heaven. (Duet.24:1) Similar beliefs can also be witnessed in Hinduism. The relationship between a man and a woman is predestined by God in heaven. During the marriage ceremony, the couple takes a circular walk around the fire (Agni) for the seventh time, with the belief that the relationship is supposed to last for seven lifetimes. During the marriage life, the spouse performs their duties being faithful to each other and fulfilling each other’s wishes and desires and creation and continuation of life.
Since marriage is considered as a sacred act, so any direct or indirect activities that hurt the core moral value of the marriage are considered offensive and in a greater extent a sin. Both Hinduism and Judaism criticize such activities that offend the belief and value of the marriage. And adultery is one of the main offensive activities committed against religion. The foundation of marriage is based on the notion of being faithful to each other, supporting each other, devoting one’s life to household duties, and fulfilling religious obligations.
To some extent, women are treated as a possession of men in both Hinduism and Judaism. Consequently, it is the sole responsibility of the man to fulfill the sexual, economic, and emotional needs of the wife. If the husband, in any circumstances, is found of being unable to fulfill the wishes of the wife, then he is punished by the law or in some cases, the decision of the divorce is bestowed on him. Since woman is thought of as a possession, she shall always be under the guidance and watch of the husband.
Manusmriti (The Laws of Manu) is a sacred, ancient book in Hinduism that consists of a set of moral duties and religious guidance that must be performed by the Hindus daily. The book says that “Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control. Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age.” As we can see that woman is not considered as a single body or an individual rather someone who is considered incomplete without a company. Throughout her life she is never free; rather, she is always under the watch of a male. Likewise, in Judaism even straying from the husband’s site is considered a moral breach. Extramarital intercourse breaks the very fundamental belief of marriage and religion. It shatters the vows taken during the marriage ceremony in front of family members and God. It is a direct sin. In simple conditions, no spouse can leave his/her partner. As the bond between the two-person is eternal and holy, no person can break it easily. There are certain exceptions, though. For instance, the death of the partner. (Michael, 2001)
The practice of adultery has always prevailed throughout the history of mankind. There are many explicit and implicit reasons floating around for the cause. One of the concrete causes is dissatisfaction with the partner. And the sub-categories of dissatisfaction are sexual dissatisfaction, financial conflict, failure to understand and respect each other’s emotions, pressure to be confined within the social institution and many more other internal and external problems. And throughout the history, religion and the society in which the religion is strictly followed have always tried to reduce such activities—one way is punishment.
Various forms of punishment have been practiced in order to reduce the number of adulteries or any other form of offenses to the religion. The number of cases might have decreased in a short time period and increased in other; however, the total number of such related cases has never stopped. The general trend is fluctuating. And as the individuals, in the modern world, divert themselves to the materialistic world, new cases are evolving every time. There is the presence of a different degree of punishment for the sin of adultery. In Judaism, the adulterer used to be given the death penalty. Though there is no stoning in Hinduism. And even in the modern world, this punishment is still practiced in some middle eastern countries. As the adultery is considered as a sin against the partner and God, the punishment is inevitable. The adulterer is neglected by the society he is living in. He is isolated and treated like an animal. He is slashed with different curse words and most cases beaten by the neighbors. (Adamczyk, 2012)
In most of the cases, the punishment is more severe towards woman than men. Most of the societies where one of the religions is practiced is patriarchal in nature. So, most of the decisions regarding any crime is favored more towards men than women. And some cases, even the crime is waived or given a very light punishment compared to the sin and compared to the punishment given to a woman. A woman who has committed a crime like adultery is very less likely to be spared from the punishment unless she is very powerful or has some influences. In some cases, if the woman is the adulterer then sometimes the woman is forgiven if the husband decides to. Though there are high chances of divorce after the incident. (David, 2019)
Adultery, in both the religion, is looked upon as a great sin against the religion and belief. The society doesn’t give any space and recognition to the adulterer. According to Vishnu Purana 3.11, “He who commits adultery is punished here and hereafter; for his days in this world are cut short, and when dead he falls into hell.”
In conclusion, both the religion treats the act of adultery as a sin against the core belief of the religion and religion. There is a certain degree of punishment for the adulterer. Though the punishment most of the time is biased because of the gender: the punishment is lenient towards men and severe towards the women. Since both the religious institution respects the holy processes of marriage and considers it as a sacred act so any irrelevant activities against the holy processes of marriage are considered a hateful deed. Therefore, the attitude towards adultery is seen as a sinful act.
- Deuteronomy Chapter 24, 1
- Broyde, M. J. (2001). Marriage, Divorce, and the Abandoned Wife in Jewish Law, (2001), 45
- Amy, A. (2012). American Sociologist Review, 77, 5.
- Amram, D. W. (2019). Encyclopedia