- The emotional and mental effects of cheating can create tension or even end a relationship or marriage.
- In some places, cheating also has legal consequences like monetary fines and jail time.
- Afghanistan, Taiwan, Pakistan, and even some U.S. states consider infidelity illegal.
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But in some places, cheating also has legal consequences like monetary fines or even jail time.
In places where the law is influenced by religion – like in some Middle Eastern countries that abide by Sharia, or Islamic law – tend to use legal punishments including imprisonment, fines, and exile, for acts of infidelity.
Even in the United States, seven states allow for a person who was cheated on to take the situation to civil court.
Here are 19 places around the world that have cheating-related laws.
In the Philippines, men and women who have sex with someone other than their spouse could face jail time. So does the person they cheat with.
Women who cheat on their spouses and are caught may go to jail for a maximum of six years, while men may go for a maximum of four and a half years. In the Philippines, "cheating" means having sexual intercourse.
Additionally, if a man cheats in his wife, the woman he cheated on her with is sentenced to exile for four years and one day. If a man has sex with a married women, his punishment is six years of jail time.
In Indonesia, Sharia forbids adultery. If someone is caught, they could go to jail for up to nine months.
The Indonesian government law doesn't have cheating-related laws, but much of the country is Muslim and abides by the Sharia.
In the independent Indonesian province of Aceh, for example, the government created a law that "prohibits being alone with someone of the opposite sex to whom you are not married or related and adultery," according to the Sexual Rights Database.
For each adulterous act in Taiwan, you're sentenced to four months in jail. The law has been criticized for being "archaic."
Taiwan and the Philippines are the only remaining Asian countries that treat infidelity as a crime, according to Taiwan News.
The four-month-per-act rule applies to the "other" man or woman who was the third party in the affair, while the husband or wife who cheats, could be sentenced to a year in prison.
Taiwan's Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai said she wants to do away with the law, but a 2013 survey conducted by the department found that 82.2% of respondents want the law to remain in place, Asia Sentinel reported.
South Dakota is one of seven U.S. states that still has medieval "alienation of affections" laws that allow a married person who was cheated on to sue the “other” man or woman with whom their partner had an affair.
Scott Olson/Getty Images
The rule was created during the 17th century as part of English common law, when women were considered men's property.
Under an alienation of affections law, the prosecutor doesn't have to prove their partner had sex with another person, just that they were engaged in an extramarital relationship that caused them to receive less love and attention than if the affair didn't occur.
In 2002, South Dakota made the law gender neutral, so women could sue the "other" woman. Prior to that, men were only allowed to sue men who had partaken in affairs with their wives.
These types of lawsuits can result in fines, and in 2002, one surgeon had to pay $400,000 for sleeping with a married woman, according to the Argus Leader, a local newspaper.
New Mexico also has an alienation of affections law.
Most cases are difficult to prove and don't result in actual prosecution of the cheater.
"It was accepted that 'a free and democratic society must tolerate certain offensive conduct as well as some obnoxious or morally deviant behavior' and that application of the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, or outrage, should be limited to only the most exceptional circumstances," New Mexico District Judge Alan M. Malott wrote in a 2010 Albuquerque Business Journal article about the shortcomings of the law.
In Mississippi, alienation of affection is often used to take an unfaithful spouse to court, even to this day.
The state passed this law in 1926 and it can be cited whenever a spouse feels they were "wrongly deprived of the services, companionship, and consortium of their spouse because another person willfully interferes with the marital relationship," according to Mississippi family and divorce law firm Danks, Miller & Cory.
In these cases, like in other states, money is awarded if the third party is found to be guilty. The jury decides an appropriate amount of money the plaintiff should receive for damages, like lost affection or companionship.
Cheaters in Illinois could face up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine, but the law is rarely enforced.
David Wilson/ Flickr
In Illinois, cheating is a Class A misdemeanor that could be punished by up to a year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. The law is rarely invoked, however.
Illinois used to follow alienation of affections laws as well, allowing for damages against an accused homewrecker. This was part of the state's "heart balm" laws designed to provide legal action in cases of martial strife, for example, breaking off a marriage contract.
But all of the heart balm laws, including those on adultery, were repealed in 2016.
Hawaii also has a law recognizing alienation of affections as a crime.
In the last few years, no cases have ome up in Hawaii's courts.
An Oklahoma law makes adultery a felony, punishable by five years in prison.
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Anyone found guilty of stepping out in the Sooner State is subject to felony charges. The consequences can be up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $500, or both.
Oklahoma law also forbids cohabiting with someone else within 30 days of a divorce or remarrying within six months of a divorce.
North Carolina allows spurned spouses to seek financial revenge.
Flickr Creative Commons / Brian and Shannon
Like many other states on this list, North Carolina has a law that allows you to sue an unfaithful partner (and their lover) through alienation of affections laws.
Plaintiffs can sue for both compensatory damages and punitive damages; in one case, the lovelorn husband was awarded $8.8 million. It's estimated that about 200 alienation of affection cases are filed in North Carolina every year, according to a local law firm.
Brunei, a tiny kingdom with a history of abstaining from the death penalty, recently made adultery a capital crime.
A kingdom of about 400,000 people on the island of Borneo, Brunei made headlines earlier this year by implementing a new law to make adultery punishable by death.
Based in Islamic law, the new addition to the penal code calls for offenders to be stoned to death in front of witnesses.
After international outrage about the policy, which also imposed capital punishment for gay sex, Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah said the law would not be enforced, NPR reported, following a tradition of allowing for capital punishment but never executing anyone in the tiny Southeast Asian nation.
Northern Nigeria calls for death by stoning in cheating cases.
In the northern states of Nigeria, the penal code criminalizes any sex outside of marriage under Sharia (under the broad category of zinâ, or unlawful sexual intercourse, which also include rape).
For adulterers, the penalty is death by stoning, according to a study on the country's laws. However, this doesn't appear to be enforced often. The last recorded executions in Nigeria were of three people convicted of armed robbery in 2016.
According to the New York Times, there have been two cases of people (both women) convicted for adultery and sentenced to death by stoning, but both were overturned on appeal.
Although the penal code can vary by region, most require proof of the crime by at least four male, Muslim witnesses.
Adultery is not considered a crime in southern Nigeria.
"A long imprisonment" awaits adulterers in Afghanistan.
The Afghan penal code dictates that adulterers be sentenced to "a long imprisonment," according to the Sexual Rights Database. Human rights groups argue that the law does not distinguish between sex crimes, meaning that victims of rape may find themselves accused of adultery.
Taliban-controlled areas of Afghanistan reportedly carried out executions of women suspected of adultery in 2010 and 2012.
Judges in Saudi Arabia have broad power to persecute adultery, and sentence those convicted to death.
desrunyan via flickr
Within Saudi Arabia, adultery is a crime punishable by stoning. Per Sharia, a person can only be convicted of adultery if they confess four times in front of the court or if four male, Muslim witnesses confirm the crime.
The Middle Eastern kingdom follows Sharia but has no formal penal code, according to Human Rights Watch, giving judges broad discretion.
Unlike some of the other countries on this list, Saudi Arabia routinely enforces the death penalty. It has the third-highest number of executions per year, according to Amnesty International. At least one execution for adultery has been recorded in the country in recent years, though the majority of capital punishments were for murder or drug offenses.
Pakistan made its adultery laws more lenient in 2006.
Since 1979, the Hadood Ordinance has made adultery a crime in Pakistan, in keeping with Islamic tradition. But in 2006, the Protection of Women Act amended parts of that ordinance, requiring the local courts to oversee any charges of adultery and allowing more than 1,000 women accused of adultery to be freed on bail.
Cheating is a capital crime in Sudan. Women are most likely to be arrested for it, but executions are almost nonexistent for adultery cases.
Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters
According to Sudan's Criminal Act of 1991, adultery is a capital crime punishable by stoning. There have been reports of women (including expecting mothers) who have been sentenced according to this law, but there's no evidence the death penalty has been enforced.
A 2010 study on the death penalty in Sudan found that while two women were sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in 2007, the sentence was never carried out. Commentary on a United Nations forum noted that though a majority of stoning sentences are given to women; globally, it is rare for women to be executed.
Sudan has, however, executed people convicted of other crimes, such as murder.
In Uganda, the law states that if a man cheats on his wife, he can go to jail for 12 months and pay a fine of 200 to 600 shillings.
A woman who commits adultery in Uganda could go to prison for six months.
In 2007, the government nullified this law following a constitutional court case, but it has yet to be removed from the constitution or countered with a provisional statement to nullify the law, according to Sexual Rights Database.
If you have sex with another person while married in Rwanda, you could go to prison for six months to a year and may pay a fine.
The fine is between 100,000 and 200,000 Rwandan francs, the equivalent of about $112 to $225 U.S. dollars.
If a cheater is also found to be living with the person they are cheating with, the punishment is worse, with the prison sentence increasing to up to two years.
In Egypt, women can go to prison for up to two years for adultery, but men only have to serve six months for the same crime.
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