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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 to be a very serious crime.

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.

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

In some societies and among certain religious adherents, adultery may affect the social status of those involved, and may result in social ostracism.

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.

In the United Kingdom, case law restricts the definition of adultery to penetrative sexual intercourse between a man and a woman, no matter the gender of the spouses in the marriage, although infidelity with a person of the same gender can be grounds for a divorce as unreasonable behavior; this situation was discussed at length during debates on the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill.

In India, adultery is the sexual intercourse of a man with a married woman without the consent of her husband when such sexual intercourse does not amount to rape.

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