Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Governments, Cultures and Sex

I was thinking about how we are often shocked by the ways other cultures and their legal expression respond to adultery, rape, homosexuality, promiscuity, prostitution, and sex itself. Iran and Afghanistan make the news because they punish women for the crimes of men. The Indian sub-continent because men throw acid into the faces of women who spurn them. The list and the details could be extended at length and it would be shocking.

Our own cultures have their oddities. Sexual jealousy can be an intense and sometimes mortally destructive force which hardly needs encouragement from legislation.

Yet in France and other countries, you will get off with a lighter punishment if you can show that yours was a crime of passion. That is not true in the UK where (for example) the last woman to be hanged (Ruth Ellis) was strung up for killing her unfaithful lover.

But the UK has its own soft spot for sexual jealousy in its divorce laws. If your husband or wife has a one-night stand with someone else, that is sufficient ground for filing a fault-based divorce petition. So instead of encouraging people to find ways of dealing with hurt and jealousy, you give them an instantly-available and very destructive outlet for it. Hardly a way to support the institutions of marriage and the family. Only the lawyers benefit.

In another Blog, I said that fault-based divorce should be abolished or, at least, that the law should no longer recognise adultery as a sufficient ground for divorce.
Sexual infidelity brings out the worst in those who are hurt by it. The law should try to discourage the worst, not encourage it.

After all, infidelity is extremely common and it would be more helpful if laws and cultural institutions encouraged people to find ways of dealing with it and moving on.

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