Most Indians feel infidelity not a sin: Survey

It's usually the French who react to marital indiscretions with little more than a Gallic shrug. But now it seems Indians, too, are getting less worked up about dalliances. A survey has revealed that 76% of Indian women and 61% of men don't think that infidelity is a sin or immoral.

The survey was conducted by Ashley Madison, a global dating website for those who are married or already in a relationship which recently launched in India. Responses were collected from 75,321 respondents - 80% were married -- in ten cities.

What's more, 81% of men and 68% women said their affair has had a positive effect on their marriage. "In some cases, an affair works as a wake-up call to repair the relationship," says sexologist Dr Prakash Kothari, who was stumped when one of his clients, a rich businessman, said he confessed to his socialite wife about using an escort service. "He says the family life has become better now as the wife spends more time with him," says Dr Kothari.

The more tolerant attitude to extra-marital affairs may be due to the YOLO effect, say some experts. "Many people now believe that since you live only once (YOLO), you have to make the most of it," says Mumbai-based clinical psychologist and counsellor Varkha Chulani. Sexual mores are also changing, albeit mostly in urban India.

The change is reflected in the number of users the Canadian website, whose slogan is 'Life is short. Have an affair', has notched up despite a low-key launch in January. "We have around 2.75 lakh Indian users without doing any marketing," says Christoph Kreamer, European communications director, The dating service clarifies that it doesn't promote extra-marital hook-ups but hopes to enable married Indians who are seeking "safe and discreet online" opportunities to have affairs like their peers in the US and Japan, says Kreamer.


Interestingly, over 80% of those surveyed had arranged marriages. "The responses show that infidelity co-exists with a high number of arranged marriages," says Kraemer. The average age of those surveyed was 45 for men and 31 for women.

So what are the reasons why spouses look outside their marriage? For 48% of women, lack of intimacy trumped other reasons while for 36% of men it was 'lack of sex' that made them look elsewhere. "In my experience, most men have affairs because of monotony in their sex lives, or a lack of response from partner, and sometimes just for variety," says Dr Kothari. Women are more likely to have affairs if they get don't feel loved by their partners.

But infidelity is more complicated than it appears. Of those surveyed, 64% of men and 88% women admitted feeling guilty about cheating. According to experts, it is not easy to shake off deeply internalized feelings about what is considered 'good' and 'bad' behaviours. Those who are thin-skinned head to the shrink's couch for counselling. "Conscience catches up with you eventually. But even then, men rarely come for therapy," says Chulani.

There are other contradictions too. A good number of people say they have never been caught having an affair (81% men and 92% women). Even if some of them did get caught, for 77% of men and 62% of women, the discovery didn't lead to divorce.

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