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A single act of sexual intercourse is generally sufficient to constitute adultery, and a more long-term sexual relationship is sometimes referred to as an affair.
Historically, many cultures have considered adultery as a very serious crime.
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.
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". In some jurisdictions, having sexual relations with the king's wife or the wife of his eldest son constitutes treason.
Most countries that criminalize adultery are those where the dominant religion is Islam, and several Sub-Saharan African Christian-majority countries, but there are some notable exceptions to this rule, namely Philippines, Taiwan, and several U. By analogy, in cultures which value and normally practice exclusive interpersonal relationships, sexual relations with a person outside the relationship may also be described as infidelity or cheating, and is subject to sanction.
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.