fornication | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminal Law

Fornication is a term that has historically been used in criminal law to refer to sexual intercourse between two people who are not married to each other.


It is considered a crime under some laws that prohibit sexual activity outside of marriage, although it is now considered an obsolete term, as many jurisdictions have abolished such laws.

Fornication laws have been in place since ancient times, where most societies considered sex outside of marriage as a moral crime and a way of maintaining social control and traditional values. These laws were mostly used to criminalize and control sexual behavior of unmarried individuals, particularly women.

However, in the modern era, fornication laws have been repealed in many countries and many jurisdictions have abandoned them as a legal concept, due to the view that they constitute an infringement on the privacy and personal autonomy of individuals.


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Last Modified: 01/11/2023

 

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