Adultery has always existed all over the world but how common is extramarital affairs in today´s India? Given India’s orthodox inclination and traditionalist persuasion on issues ranging from premarital sex to homosexuality, one might generally assume that the country also would frown on extramarital affairs. WRONG. For a country that conspicuously demands sanctification of marriages, placing a grave socio-religious importance on a woman’s chastity and character, India, is the second-most accepting of extramarital affairs !!!. This shocking revelation came as part of the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Global Attitudes survey – it asked 40,117 respondents in 40 countries what they thought about eight topics often discussed as moral issues: extramarital affairs, gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives. Among its findings: India was more unaccepting (than the global average) of 7/8 moral issues, except for extramarital affairs !!. Look at the chart below to see India’s positioning based on the percentage of its acceptance of extra marital affairs relative to other countries of the world.
Fourteen percentage of Indians surveyed found extramarital affairs acceptable with a further 10 % finding it not immoral. India, was second only to the Czech Republic in its acceptance of extramarital affairs !!!. Where as in the other 7 moral issues namely gambling, homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, alcohol consumption, divorce, and the use of contraceptives, India remained more conservative than the corresponding global average.
With these basic facts in mind, one can’t help wonder what a detailed survey within India could reveal about extramarital affairs /adultery in our society. In 2015, the survey by The Ashley Madison Agency collated and analysed responses from 75,321 respondents from across ten cities – 80% being married. This survey drew up some shocking statistics: 76% of Indian women and 61% of men don’t even consider infidelity as a sin or immoral anymore. No less than 81% of men and 68% of women confessed that their affairs had a positive impact on their marriage. More than 80% were trapped in arranged marriages that functioned like business deals. The average age of those surveyed was 45 for men and 31 for women. In fact, around the same time the survey was conducted (February 2014), India saw the launch of a popular extra-marital affairs “dating website”. Not surprisingly, the country’s women in predominantly arranged marriages thronged the portal – its slogan: ‘Life is short. Have an affair’. As many as 50,000 Indian women who primarily hailed from Delhi signed up on the first day itself, representing, as a sex, more than half of the sign-ups.
Keeping these statistics apart for a moment, let’s ask why does certain extramarital friendships cross the line over to infidelity ? Why do partners take such emotional and practical risks ? What motivates them to adultery ? Surveys conducted in to the motivation of extra-marital affairs seems to reveal several reasons although some appear more common than others. The most frequent two reasons- you guessed it- had to do with sex. They either felt their marriage was sexually not satisfying, or they wished to have more sex than they were having now. The next two reasons reflect emotional needs. Participants reported that they weren’t emotionally satisfied in their current relationship or wished to gain additional emotional connection or validation. The least frequent reasons for engaging in affairs had to do with love- either falling out of love with their partner or falling in love with the new partner or wanting to seek revenge or curious for new experiences. In a nutshell, for the most part, the motivation for extramarital affairs or the reason why partners cheat on their spouses seem primarily for sex, emotional sustenance, or love.
Extra marital affairs are a risky venture and definitely not one for the faint at heart, yet their ever increasing prevalence among Indian men and women inevitably leads us to the questions – if India as a society has begun looking at relationships in a new and more disposable light ? Or if these are to be attributed to emancipation of individuals from traditional roles in the last 20-30 years ? i.e, is an affair on the side then a sign of modernism? Or is India´s sexual dalliance the start of a sexual revolution that reflects a deeper cultural shift ?