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Adultery involving a married woman and a man other than her husband was considered a very serious crime.

In 1707, English Lord Chief Justice John Holt stated that a man having sexual relations with another man's wife was "the highest invasion of property" and claimed, in regard to the aggrieved husband, that "a man cannot receive a higher provocation" (in a case of murder or manslaughter). 1 (1751), also equated adultery to theft writing that, "adultery is, after homicide, the most punishable of all crimes, because it is the most cruel of all thefts, and an outrage capable of inciting murders and the most deplorable excesses." Legal definitions of adultery vary.

Adultery often incurred severe punishment, usually for the woman and sometimes for the man, with penalties including capital punishment, mutilation, or torture.

Such punishments have gradually fallen into disfavor, especially in Western countries from the 19th century.

In countries where adultery is a criminal offense, punishments range from fines to caning and even capital punishment.

Though what sexual activities constitute adultery varies, as well as the social, religious, and legal consequences, the concept exists in many cultures and is similar in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.

Thus, the "purity" of the children of a marriage is corrupted, and the inheritance is altered.

Some adultery laws differentiate based on the sex of the participants, and as a result such laws are often seen as discriminatory, and in some jurisdictions they have been struck down by courts, usually on the basis that they discriminated against women.

Criminal conversation was usually referred to by lawyers as crim.

con., and was abolished in England in 1857, and the Republic of Ireland in 1976.

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Adultery is not a ground for divorce in jurisdictions which have adopted a no-fault divorce model.

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