Adultery websites: should they be banned?

Extramarital dating website Gleeden is facing a court battle in France for 'encouraging people to cheat'


Catholic groups in France are suing a company which bills itself as "the premier site for extramarital affairs", claiming that it encourages people to break their wedding vows.

Gleeden is an online dating community dedicated to married people and boasts millions of users worldwide. It has launched a major advertising campaign in France, with its large, provocative billboards featured on buses and Metro stations across the country.

"Whether you are looking for a little thrill with a married woman in your town or a lover a thousand miles from home, Gleeden is able to connect you with people around the world!" it promises.

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Conservatives and Catholic pressure groups argue that the company breaches an old French civil code by encouraging married people to cheat. But should it be up to the courts to decide what consenting adults get up to behind closed doors?

Yes – encouraging adultery cannot be allowed

"I was shocked and disgusted when I saw the ad," Aude Ducros, a spokesperson for the Catholic Family Associations told the New York Times. "Infidelity destroys the social fabric of France."

Henri de Beauregard, the group's lawyer, said the website contravenes the civil code by encouraging people to break a contractual obligation entered into at the time of marriage. Under French civil law dating back to 1804, "married partners owe each other the duty of respect, fidelity, help and assistance."

"Here in France, people and parliament are all in agreement that marriage is a public commitment. It's in the law. What we are trying to do with our suit is show that the civil code – the law – has meaning," Jean-Marie Andres, president of the association told the Huffington Post.

No – it's censorship

Gleeden has described the lawsuit as "incomprehensible", because the firm's advertising material has already been submitted to and cleared by the advertising regulatory bodies.

"If people see our advertisements and are shocked, well there is no obligation," said the company's spokesperson Solene Paillet. "If you see a nice car in an ad, you aren't obliged to buy it. You make your own mind up."

The company says a ruling against them would be tantamount to censorship and an attack on free speech. Only weeks ago "the French were on the streets fighting for freedom of expression," said Paillet. "In 2015, religious organisations, whether Catholic or otherwise, cannot dictate morality to the French," she added.

She also argues that the site is a way of empowering woman who have been victims of male infidelity, and yet were often the ones punished for cheating in the past. "We want to give women a means to cheat on their husbands and to be sexually independent," she said.

Will the case succeed?

"Judicially speaking, the case has a solid base," Stephane Valory, a specialist in family law told the BBC. "By organising relationships between married people, it is possible to argue that Gleeden is inciting couples to violate their civic duty." But she warns that the outcome of the case is far from certain, due to the desire to separate religion and the state and the changing moral values of modern society.

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