Thursday, December 18, 2008

Adultery is individual rights?

In this particular post, I shall qualify the term 'adultery' to 'having extra-marital sex without the consent of the spouse, if any, of both parties'. (This doesn't mean I'm OK with "open-relationship" or "swinger-couple". I qualify it for the sake of argument)

Just today, there is this case that a woman trying to justify her adultery act by arguing for 'right of individual choice in sexual relations'. Her neglectful husband did not consent over her extra-marital sexual activities, hence I deem this as a case of 'adultery'.

The Australian reports
BBC reports

What is alarming is that the person involved in the adulterous act argues for a right to have extra-marital sex. And she sublimes it as 'individual's rights'.

Could this be another by-effect of Mill's utilitarian view of ethics, though not necessary has any direct link with Mill?

I think as long as we maintain status quo with the current valuation of ethics based on 'individuals' right', our current political discourse is nothing short of the domestication of 'rights'. Anyone from anywhere can argue for any 'rights'.

Hence, if we want to continue to talk about 'rights', we need to look elsewhere.

4 comments:

Steven Sim said...

While I agree with you against "free for all world of rights", I would like to disagree on the way you applied Mill's utilitarianism to this case.

I think when someone goes into a relationship, whether in a society or in a partnership, then he have to understand that he is "amendable to others". In this case, do no harm principle is indeed against the act of the woman. In fact this woman's action did not act for the greatest (not total, but greatest) sum of happiness of the the greatest (not total, but greatest) sum of ppl.

Of course, we can say, she should NOT commit adultery because it's immoral, but then again, your own question will come back to haunt you...immoral according to?

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Steven,

You wrote: "I think when someone goes into a relationship, whether in a society or in a partnership, then he have to understand that he is "amendable to others". In this case, do no harm principle is indeed against the act of the woman."

Let me apply the do no harm principle here the way the woman used it. The woman is arguing that she is being harmed in 2 ways:

1. Her husband's negligence of her is harmful to her, which is also the reason why she had extra-marital relationship.

2. Her sexual rights is being impinged. Hence she is being harmed by the law that criminalize adultery.

So, first her husband already harmed her. She is just returning the favor. If the court want to be consistent with 'do no harm principle', the husband should also be punished.

Second, if the law hinges on 'do no harm' principle, then the court should not impinge the woman's rights. In so doing, it is harming the woman.

Finally, of cos i'm not advocating for the woman. I'm just contending that there is serious flaw with such discourses that hinges on 'do no harm' principle, which the law and court doesn't consistently follow through. In fact this inconsistency could be another hint that the 'do no harm' principle is not the way for jurisprudence.

Rubati Rabbit said...

I'm confused. Is she harmed because her right has been infringed or is her right infringed because she is harmed?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Dom,

Actually i've no idea...both sides of the coin, i think.