Last week, I voted for two of the topics suggested for Indispire #277. One got voted to be the indispire prompt of the week, the other did not. However, both are related in the sense that both talk about relationships – one neutral and the other unacceptable.
I voted for the first one because I found it intriguing. The second one asks, “Do you support extramarital affairs?” It did not get enough votes to become the Indispire topic of the week, but it has some ethical, legal and social implications which, I thought, would be interesting to explore.
I voted for the topic does not mean I support extramarital affairs? It only means I did not suggest the topic. On Indispire you cannot vote for your own topic. Of course I would like to know the blogger friend who suggested the topic and promise to keep is confidential if he/she wishes so.
Of meetings and partings
We all take different paths in life, but no matter where we go, we take a little of each other everywhere. – Tim McGraw
So, the first one is about meetings and partings. Meetings and partings are inevitable parts of life. Some people associated with us part temporarily with possibility of being united sometime in future. Some leave us with no such option.
The paradox of life is that it is temporary as well as permanent. Biology, to some extent, helps us in perpetuating our genes through procreation. Tied to our physical body are certain invisible elements that we may call our persona, or essence, or our being. Maybe, we perpetuate parts of our our being through intimate social interactions. Thus, we influence and get influenced by one another’s presence in our lives. This influence remains long after we have parted ways. We let parts of others live in us and parts of us live in others sometimes without our being aware of it.
The statement of Tim McGraw may evoke emotional responses. We are reminded of fond or bitter relationships of the past. It can be also be explored from an educational point of view.
There is an old saying – a man is known by the company he keeps. New age psychologist agree that our five best friends indicate a lot about the direction our lives will take. In Indian culture a lot of emphasis is give to ‘satsang’ for all round development. Sangham saranam gachhami – chant the Budhhist seekers.
Of meetings and meetings
Do you support extramarital affairs? Why do you think they are on the rise?
English is indeed a funny language. In the case of majority of words like major and majority, sure and surety, indemn and indemnity, religion and religiosity etc. the suffix ‘ity’ stands for the quality of the noun it suffixes. However, Infidel is defined as – a term used in certain religions for those accused of unbelief in the central tenets of their own religion, for members of another religion, or for the irreligious; where as the primary meaning of infidelity is – the action or state of being unfaithful to a spouse or other sexual partner.
There are no official facts and figures to support the view that incidences of extramarital affairs are on the rise. It could be just a perception because of the society adopting more and more liberal western values. Of course, we are still a conservative society at our core and compared to the west we have still a long way to go in terms of sexual freedom.
The incidences of committing infidelity may vary from culture to culture and over time in the same culture but the tendency to be unfaithful has been ever present. In our Puranas Indra is depicted as a lustful God trying to seduce the wives of men including the Rishis. “Thou will not commit adultery” – thus goes one of the Biblical ten commandments indicating to the fact that adultery was very much prevalent in that society and the trend was something to be worried about.
Incidences of adultery come to light even from societies where there is harsh punishment like stoning or public hanging. In all such conservative societies whether there is harsh physical punishment or other forms of psychological punishments like social ostracising or shaming, it is usually the woman who is punished while the man goes scot free or gets away with minor punishments. Interestingly, till recently the legal position with regard to adultery in India was quite the opposite – it was the man who was to be punished not the woman
Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code which dealt with adultery was struck down by the Supreme Court on 27.09.2018. The section read as follows:
Whoever has sexual intercourse with a person who is and whom he knows or has reason to believe to be the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both. In such case the wife shall not be punishable as an abettor.
Apart from exonerating the woman and punishing the man, this section has many other interesting implications like – the man will not be punished if (1) the man is married but the woman is not (2) the man does not know that the woman is wife of someone even though actually she may be the wife of someone.
The main contention of the activists who opposed this section was due to the fact that the law had its origin from the time when women were considered property of men. The law objectified women.
Thankfully, such unfair and outdated concepts are now purged from the Indian Penal Code. The Judgment of the supreme court was that “adultery cannot be a criminal offence, however it can be a ground for civil issues like divorce“. But, the mindset of the Indian society is yet to come to terms with it.
In western countries adultery usually ends in divorce in the long run. There may be cases of murders by jealous partners. But, that is an exception. In India divorce is the exception, the norm being murder, or suicide, or leading a long disgraceful life filled with painful compromises. I say this not after watching episodes of ‘Sansani” but from the incidents that I have come across.
Last year a lady of acquaintance committed suicide after she felt disgraced due to alleged extramarital affairs with a colleague. Two of my distant relatives are in extramarital affairs which is now an open secret. It is an embarrassing situation for all those related but no one is interested to find an amicable solution to end this. Another ended in divorce after a prolonged period of excruciating negotiations.
Can we do something to prevent people from committing adultery? As I have already said this has been the concern of human societies since time immemorial. We have made it part of our religious edicts like making it a part of ten commandments or setting examples through myths like Ramayana.
Ironically, to prevent extramarital affairs social experiments have been made not in developed societies but in some primitive tribal societies . There is one such tribe in India where young boys and girls are permitted to spend intimate time with three different partners before marriage and then choose one of them. But once they have decided, they have to remain faithful through out the rest of their lives.
Whatever we may do, incidences of adultery it cannot be altogether prevented. Infidelity could be as old as the institution of marriage and it may continue to be there as long as there prevails the emphasis on faithfulness.
In Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu says that as soon as virtue is being known as something good, it becomes evil. Thus, as long as there is this concept of being faithful, there will be the tendency to be unfaithful. Some will go ahead and commit it, some will not come what may.
As society becomes more and more liberal and open, adulterers may confess quickly and find amicable solutions so as to avoid tragic ends or excruciating negotiations. I would prefer that such affairs end in parting of ways with mutual understanding instead of suicide, murder, or extortion.
It is interesting to note that if you are a celebrity, you may not only get away with it, but also make huge amounts of money out of it. Enjoy the following popular Bollywood song that has traces of infidelity ingrained into it.