Distinguishing Adultery from Concubinage

Adultery and concubinage are two legal terms that are often used to indicate persons engaging in other relationships outside of their marriage. Because of the similar contexts in which they are employed, it is often mistakenly thought that they could be used interchangeably or as synonyms for one another. However, adultery and concubinage are two different terms that stand for unique concepts of themselves. 

What is Adultery? 
Adultery can be defined as engaging in sexual activities outside of marriage that is considered objectionable by moral, legal and societal grounds. Although the sexual activities that constitute adultery and its consequences vary according to each context, religion or society, the concept stands as being similar across all boards. In certain cultures adultery is a serious offence for which even the death penalty, torture or mutilation is enacted upon the offenders while, in other societies, adultery is not considered as a criminal offence although according to family law, adultery is considered as grounds for divorce. Adultery is also a factor upon which custody of children, property matters and other such matters can be decided upon in the case of divorce. 

In ultra-conservative countries such as countries in which Sharia law is practiced, stoning is implemented as punishment for adultery. In such cases, mostly the woman is punished whereas the man may also be sometimes punished. However, according to a statement made by United Nations Working Group on discrimination against women in law and practice, adultery as a criminal offence violates human rights and therefore it must not be considered so. 

What is Concubinage? 
Concubinage can be defined as an interpersonal relationship where an individual engages in ongoing sexual activities with another person to whom they are not married or cannot marry. The reason for not being able to marry may be due to the incompatibility of social ranking or because either of the two is already married. Concubinage is a practice that has been observed throughout time. In ancient Rome, a man is allowed to enter into a recognized yet an informal relationship with a woman other than his wife, often of a lower social standing which stood as an obstacle for marriage. A woman who engaged in such relationships was referred to as a concubine or a concubina, and this was not considered as a derogatory title. Kings and men of high social standing in various societies throughout histories had been known to keep many women as their consorts, and it had been an acceptable practice throughout time. In Islam, a man is allowed to take four women as his wives on the grounds that he can treat them with justice and fairness. 

Key Takeaways

  • Adultery is an offence and is a practice that is shunned morally, socially and legally, while concubinage is accepted in certain societies.
  • Adultery involves engaging in sexual activities with a partner other than one’s spouse, while concubinage is an ongoing sexual relationship with someone who is not or cannot be married due to social status or other circumstances.
  • Adultery is a more recent concept, while concubinage has been in practice since ancient times.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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