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Cheaters are considered to be inferior humans with defective genes and just like mentally ill people and individuals born with various handicaps are eliminated from the gene pool.

Capital punishment is used to erase adultery and purify society from individuals born with the cheating gene.

This is eugenics by extirpation of the weak and the wicked. Much like the story about Spartans from Plutarch, Life of Lykourgos.

However the society in question is not really advanced when compared to the modern world but it is indeed resembling of ancient Greece and Egypt.

No electricity is available and neither is magic, but I still want the court to be certain that they are punishing the right guys.

Question: how can the court tell for certain that someone is actually a cheater and they are are not dealing with a false accuse?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica May 31 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ If they're not advanced technologically beyond ancient Greece/Egypt, by what means have they identified said "cheating gene"? This context would greatly help me provide an answer to you. Also, what is the society like in general, on a scale of "barbaric" to "civil and humans"; are the courts worried more about fairness, or overly concerned with simply catching the cheater? $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh May 31 at 21:11
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    $\begingroup$ @SentientFlesh the concent of congenital physical and personal behaviour was well known before the understanding of genes. " you talk just like your father" is a phrase as old as people. $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 31 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Kyu Okay, just wanted to clarify. So they understand that there is some hereditary component to being an adulterer, but they do not know (or able to directly test) this on a genetic level, is that correct? $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 1 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ @SentientFlesh There's also nothing in the question to indicate that a "cheating gene" actually exists in this world, rather than just being believed to exist... $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal Jun 1 at 8:24

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This was the original purpose of chastity belts.

Example usage:

  • Anyone in public without a functioning, locked, chastity belt is assumed to be an adulterer and promptly stoned.
  • Spouse holds the only key. A responsible relative holds the key for unmarried adults.

You can see that this makes family politics and individual freedom all tied up with sexual control and kinky dominance and ewwww.

Of course, to be fair, ALL adults must wear the silly things.

What will really happen is that rulers will create a double-standard, where one (wealthy, powerful) group don't need to wear the belts after all, while everybody else must wear the belts. All the illegitimate offspring will simply be claimed as legitimate. After all, who's going to stop them?

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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki-ReinstateMonica well, it's not actually very effective at all - humans turn out to be very clever at defeating them. It's intended to be an appropriately silly answer to a silly premise, since we know that promiscuity is not primarily genetic. $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 29 at 21:25
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    $\begingroup$ Actually there have been studies showing that there is a strong correlation between hormonal balance and monogamy. People with greater hormonal ranges are more likely to be attracted to different partners at different times; so, through selective breeding people could become more hormonally stable which would lead to greater monogamy (assuming they have some say in who they marry). Risk taking also has genetic factors that could be selected for/against. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 29 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ This could be turned into a method for detecting cheaters. Authorities just need to keep a secret watch on sources of information and supplies related to lockpicking. Anyone who tries to secretly learn this skill is assumed to be either an adulterer or a burglar. $\endgroup$ – plasticinsect May 29 at 21:45
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    $\begingroup$ AFAIK chastity belts are a myth $\endgroup$ – David Hambling May 31 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidHambling Wikipedia says chastity belts did not exist in the middle ages, were rarely used during the Renaissance, and became more popular in the 19th century. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chastity_belt $\endgroup$ – user31389 May 31 at 12:43
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It sounds like you're looking for an accurate way to find an adulterer... I'd say, a court system like ours might be in play. Witnesses, testimonies, etc.

If you're leaning more on the "doesn't have to be accurate" side of things... I'm thinking, what did they do in witch hunts? It was all manner of irrational things. They were assumed to have magic, so logically a magic user would survive drowning right? Hence, tie a brick to her ankle, sink her, see if she dies. I'm thinking for adulterers, send someone appealing their way, if they bite, they're an adulterer and are guilty. Or maybe they do something like check for STDs, I guess that's one of the only tangible things I could think of that they might be capable of, but we know this method would be extremely faulty.

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, in our world it is not uncommon for someone with concerns about a partner's fidelity to see if they can entrapped by a honeypot, either a friend the partner doesn't know or via a private investigator. $\endgroup$ – StephenS May 29 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking unicorns. Only a slight adjustment needs to be made to their ability to detect virgins. Which don't exist, so they can't. But you can grind up the horn of whatever, add a poison, and see if they die. +1 $\endgroup$ – Mazura May 30 at 6:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Mazura that would be the "Ordeal of the Bitter Water" described in the Bible (Numbers 5:12-31). $\endgroup$ – LSerni Jun 3 at 19:53
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No electricity is available and neither is magic, but I still want the court to be certain that they are punishing the right guys.

With human biochemistry, that is impossible. You must make do with "reasonable belief" and the possibilities of missing, mistaken, hateful and bought witnesses.

Even keeping everything under lock and key would not be enough, because keys can be duplicated, locks can be picked (we're in a low tech milieu, remember: skill and a hardened iron pin is easy, Bowley 543 padlocks are not), and anyway the key must be in someone's possession, and that someone can be bribed, convinced, fooled or burgled.

(I half-remember a joke about a village where all women wore chastity belts and half the children looked like the blacksmith).

And finally of course "cheating" does not necessarily imply full standard intercourse (anyway, having (ever) had sexual intercourse cannot always be detected by medical examination - folk tales and traditions notwithstanding).

But, for specific (i.e. physical enough) values of "cheating" and with some fancy handwaving, what you want could be possible.

Let us start by supposing that these people have a weird and ruthless immune system, making them resistant to most pathogens and actually at risk of immune over-response. This would ordinarily also have the side effect of almost guaranteeing infertility, since the newborn would almost never be immunologically compatible with the host.

So, a backdoor evolved that specifically allows matings. Once the mother's immune system has been "primed" to recognize and tolerate the father's antigens, the newborn child will also be protected and yield no reaction. This priming would happen even if no pregnancy is sought. Just having (enough?) intercourse would be sufficient to start the reciprocal adaptation.

And this adaptation having taken place can be detected.

We could have this work through pheromones, so that whatever you do while close enough, provided that both parties are consenting, properly excited, and breath each other's pheromones, will result in them being identifiably marked.

This might also somewhat help in explaining the strong stigma against cheaters. A "loose" lifestyle could very soon send the immune system completely off kilter, resulting in several nasty, obnoxious and possibly even life-threatening side effects that have permanently associated "cheat" with "abomination" in this people's culture. Cheat three times in a row and die of a cytokine storm - God's way of enforcing chastity. Lifelong pairings must be the norm, and several complex medical rituals and "cooling off" penance periods have to be completed to allow the few divorces and especially re-marriages of widowers.

It is also quite easy to imagine a rough immunoassay being possible and capable of determining whether someone's immune response is still copacetic or whether some confusion has ensued. For example: mixing the suspected cheaters' bloods in a vial with saltwater and some juices might show a fast haemolytic reaction, indicating that the two have had no intimate contact, or might show no adverse reactions at all, indicating that the two immune sets have already been somehow introduced to one another. This could provide the required "certainty".

The "reciprocal arousal" requirement can also be used to identify cases of nonconsensual sex (and therefore, unconveniently for society, arranged marriages - which in a low-tech, probably agriculture-based culture would be quite common, unless inheritance laws were redesigned). If A reacts to B but B does not react to A, this means that however you choose to call the fact, however things went, B raped A.

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So there are hundreds of REALLY bad ways used in the ancient world to prove guilt, but only one way that was usually accurate, and that was the use of impartial witnesses. If you suspect a partner of adultery, instead of catching her in the act yourself, you would need a person with no loyalty to either party to catch him/her in the act.

Many ancient civilizations had some variant of police forces: Athens had civic slaves called "rod-bearers". Sparta had citizens who were both judge and law enforcement called "ephors". Rome had profesional policemen/firefighters called "vigils". It does not matter what model you go with, as long as your civilization has some kind of publicly accessible law enforcers, you could simply have them do house checks if you think your spouse is being unfaithful.

If an officer does a house check, and your spouse is with someone they should not be with, they arrest the guilty and bring them to be executed. There is of course still the issue of bribing the police to say you spouse cheated on you, but there is really no legal system where police corruption is not a problem.


Another possible solution which would weed out adultery genetically would be to simply kill any child that does not look like the father. Human infants almost always resemble thier fathers more than the mothers; so, it's usually pretty easy to tell by looking at a 1 month old if the daddy is actually the daddy or not. By killing off the products of adultery, you may not prevent people from cheating who are already wired that way, but you create an environment that selects against those people from having babies out of wedlock which would make monogamous people more selectively fit which could lead to more monogamous future generations.

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    $\begingroup$ impartial witnesses That rarest of all things. :-) $\endgroup$ – StephenG May 29 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ Where did you get the interesting tidbit that "human infants almost always resemble their fathers more than the mothers"? $\endgroup$ – Llewellyn May 30 at 11:39
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    $\begingroup$ facial similarity has been shown to be breathtakingly bad at determining paternity. jov.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2121898 $\endgroup$ – John May 31 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ I've heard this from a couple of midwives and an obstetrician, and seen it in my own life many times. Infants across both genders suppress their mother's physical features in favor of the fathers and only develop the other features after a few months. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 31 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ The common explanation being that it is an evolutionary feature to prevent paternal abandonment. You would of course end up killing many unfortunate infants that were born in monogamy too but the overall effect would be to weed out the cheater babies, because they would be much less likely to pass the test $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki May 31 at 16:44
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For some cases, but unfortunately - not all, you might have a secret order of tempters/investigators, who could lure the supposed 'cheater' into a trap by seducing him and catching him right before a 'supposed' act of cheating on the investigator, who at the end, turns out to had been just an actor. Perhaps the judgment/execution/assassination could be accomplished on the spot too.

It could work for the less romantic-type acts of cheating, but not for people who just want to start a new/second relationship, which would still be an unresolved issue. In this case, a standard investigation could have to be issued. It also can be secret and unofficial, such as the work of a spy, with the use of a silver-tongue to befriend the target or its family, to gather direct answers when possible or simply less-vocal clues.

This secret order can also add some strong sexual stimulant (think aphrodisiac) that might increase the target's urge to act on the desires. The target would be under constant observation and investigators would simply follow, once it's necessary and catch the prey 'in the act'.

If I've any more ideas, I'll edit the post.

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    $\begingroup$ I see distinct problems with this suggestion - especially that third paragraph. As soon as you have to deliberately administer drugs, they become the victim, not the defendant. $\endgroup$ – Chronocidal May 30 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I was kind of aware that it might become an issue, but I would like to point out that the goal of the society in OP's post is to remove anyone born with a cheating gene, so entrapment still serves the goal of society. An individual without a cheating gene would still refuse to act on desires or would walk to do the act with the wife/husband under the drug, an individual who succumbs to desires has 'a cheating gene' and is thus removed from society. It's kind of like accelerating a selection process. Depending on OP's goals, an entrapment might be deemed permittable by culture. $\endgroup$ – Ambu May 30 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ Although, I agree that the drug is the most controversial issue and not a very perfect solution in itself, but I'm kind of a fan of the crapsack worlds and OP even stated that his society isn't very modern-like, so I hoped it's acceptable to assume that their law might be a bit backwards to our, so as long as I was believing that there were no direct contraindications in OP, that kind of solution was simply appealing to me. $\endgroup$ – Ambu May 30 at 13:43
  • $\begingroup$ This would be considered "entrapment" and is of questionable ethical value. Example: John Delorean was entrapped into smuggling cocaine. Sure he thought about it, but would he have done it for real if the FBI hadn't encouraged him with a double-agent ? More info legal.thomsonreuters.com/blog/… $\endgroup$ – Criggie May 30 at 23:50
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    $\begingroup$ I think we already landed solidly in "questionable ethics" with the eugenics and the capital punishment for adulterers, so I'm not sure adding a little entrapment really makes things much worse... $\endgroup$ – Ben Millwood May 31 at 5:20
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Obviously the society is based on bad science, and adultery is a legal/social construct rather than an objective reality, so the whole things is doomed to fail from an objective point of view.

However, this rarely matters to those involved. Like witch-finders, Nazis and racists, the legal authorities only need a system which satisfied them that it picks out the 'guilty'.

Typical methods include torturing people to get a confession, or a divinely-guided test like those used to identify witches.

Important to note that even in our modern society we have no way of determining whether anyone is absolutely guilty of anything -- appeals are always possible.

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  • $\begingroup$ Cheating is not a social costruct, its a natural behaviour chosen by sexual selection. People who cheat, particularly males are more likely to reproduce and spread their genes. It's the opposite of selective of sexual altruism. Because of this males who cheat are more successful at spreading their genes and create more male cheaters across the planet. Nature doesn't just selects shape but also behaviours. Plus there's some evidence suggesting that self control, willpower, sense of guilt, cheating behaviour, dishonesty and other personality traits are all genetic. $\endgroup$ – user75689 May 31 at 11:19
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    $\begingroup$ @kyu, marriage and adultery however ARE social constructs. $\endgroup$ – John May 31 at 14:10
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After a person is wed, the joined people are assigned a unique color paint that they ethnically, ritualistically and as a matter of civic pride paint their genitals with.

If your paint shows up where it’s not supposed to, you out playa!

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    $\begingroup$ so you just need to find some with a similar color. there are not that many distinguishable colors. Even fewer when you consider ancient pigments, worse many of them are also toxic. painting your genitals daily with lead white would make adultery the least of your worries. $\endgroup$ – John May 31 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to suggest unique smells, but I thought I might offend people. ***EXPLICIT**** youtube.com/watch?v=KyR-FYwUpGg $\endgroup$ – PV22 Jun 2 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ It could even be a specific pattern of a few colours, that would better be applied from the onset of puberty. It would also require a tradition of at least partial public nudity. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Jun 3 at 15:04
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You can not deal with this question until you deal with rape, and with sex outside of marriage in general.

How do you distinguish between a willing adulterer, a person who fraudulently claims they are single, a person who was raped, a person who just claims rape, a willing adulterer who then claims rape in order to have someone killed, date rape, and so on and so forth?

And, of course, there is always the 'I changed my mind, after the fact' conundrum. A person who was originally completely willing, regrets the experience afterwards and then convinces themselves that it was actually rape after all, in order to protect their own ego. And exactly what does 'completely willing' mean, when you are dealing with hormones, intoxication, mental illness, power coercion, financial incentives, false promises, and other variants that diminish 'free will'?

The long and the short of it is, unless your society has mastered the art of mind reading an involuntary suspect, the subtitles between rape, adultery, and deception are just too variegated to ever have absolute certainty. And even with absolute certainty, the shades of grey are so infinitesimally deviant that only some form of legal document that ascribes 'sexual privilege' to a couple, outside of which no matter what the circumstances, it is adultery and thus punishable by death, is the only way to ensure the genetic results of an adulterous relationship are not passed on, including those generated by rape, fraud, drugs, and other nefarious means.

But the last point begs another question be asked: Is it the adulterous act itself that is being addressed as the criminal act (the assault to the concept 'this person is my exclusive sexual possession, someone else stole it from me and must be punished') or is it the act of procreation and of actual genetic transference that is to be avoided, in which case the only issue would be the parentage of the fetus, and thus would change the focus to the determination of parentage (even if by rape or otherwise)?

Of course, there is the small matter of a claim to 'immaculate conception'.

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  • $\begingroup$ you also have the issue that even proving intercourse is remarkably difficult given the technological level. $\endgroup$ – John May 31 at 14:37
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Cuff spouses together.

People that always together can't cheat on each other. You can't sneak out of your window to have a date with someone outside your marriage if you have to bring up your spouse along.

This doesn't stop a couple of having consensual relationships outside their marriage with other people, but then it isn't cheating anymore, is it?

Sure, this technique introduces a lot of problems on the society, but those problems might be worthwhile to explore.

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A gross way of doing things:

By selective fungal infections.

This world has several benign, harmless types of fungi that grow all around the place and can be safely grow on human skin without any risk for their host. They can be used to create colorful tattoos, mark families, and so on. Those types of fungi can interbreed, giving rise to new types of color - mix up a blue fungus and and a red fungus enough times and you'll see the rise of purple fungi eventually.

So, during marriage, a couple picks a specific type/color of fungi and ritualistically infect each other's genitalia. The thing will remain there and color their private parts for the rest of their lives, with their lovemaking serving as a way of exchanging spores and keeping them on the same "color".

If one of them cheats, it will bring spores of a very different color to their culture, quickly changing their own original coloration. The one that didn't cheat will know for sure what happened, and then can bring up their spouse to justice.

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  • $\begingroup$ Very cool idea, based in actual science, and as an intermediate level mycologist I find this great on so many levels. The symbiosis between fungi and mankind is so ingrained that even a very primitive society could develop something like this. $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 5 at 1:04
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Honey Traps

From your context the aim seems to not be to prevent people cheating on their spouses, but to identify the people who might be tempted and eliminate them for crazy genocidal "breeding a better human" reasons.

So just hire a load of attractive people to go around looking for romantic relations with people, then kill anyone these tempters manage to bring into their bedrooms.

The only real source of un-wanted executions in this system would be corruption on the part of the tempters and temptresses, the might occasionally decide that the landlord who was mean to their sister or something needs killing even though he wasn't tempted. But law enforcement officials acting beyong their remit is a universal problem and not unique to this law.


Final thought: why kill them? If the goal is to stop them breeding then castration also works: and might well feel more appropriate to the crime.

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  • $\begingroup$ Castration is also a great deterrent for others who might be thinking of committing a crime. $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 10 at 17:28
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You can't.

But what you can do is create a proxy for adultery, and tightly control that, instead.

The ideal proxy is contact between men and women, because no contact = no adultery. After all, contact between men and women is much easier to police than physical intimacy.

Interestingly, to limit contact between men and women, you only need to limit the freedoms of one gender. And, by "one gender", I mean women. Historically, in the real world, it has invariably proven much easier to limit the freedoms from women than of men. I'm told that it has something to do with reproductive economics, with power, and with tradition... but you can have whatever reasons you like in the world that you're building.

To limit the freedom of a gender you typically need rules. In fact, you need several kinds of rules.

First, you need Enforcement Rules. These are intended to convince people that:

  1. These rules are for the protection of women
  2. These rules are sacred
  3. These rules are tradition
  4. These rules are for the benefit of all society

Second, you need Punishment Rules. Something like:

  1. If any man or woman breaks these rules, they will be punished. They will be tortured and put to death by the community, in a public place. By flogging, stoning... something brutal, anyway.

And then you need Separation Rules. They need to say something like:

  1. Females over 10 years old must not go out alone
  2. When females venture out they must be accompanied by a brother, father, husband, or another woman
  3. A female accompanied by one other person is to be looked on with suspicion. Such a woman is shameful, although leeway is given if her circumstances allow. A female accompanied by many other women is a credit to her community. She is to be highly esteemed.
  4. It is the duty of all females to accompany either women when the go out.
  5. If a woman lives alone, or there is nobody in her household who can act as her chaperone, she may travel alone to her nearest female neighbour
  6. If a female is seen with a male who is neither her father, brother, nor husband, then both male and female will be put to death
  7. When females go out, they will be covered up. Their face must not be visible, neither their arms, nor their legs, nor any other part.

Finally, you'll also need Marriage Rules. A society still needs men and women to meet and marry, so you need something like:

  1. Elderly women will act as matchmakers and chaperones, so that men and women can meet and marry
  2. No divorce. Ever. On pain of death.

You also want to include a couple of Random Rules (so you know that an ineffable god is involved, somehow).

Of course, you can still put adulterers to death if they're caught by eye-witnesses.

(Again, it appears that it is is often easier to catch women in the act of adultery, than it is to catch men; a well-know example being the woman caught in adultery in John's Gospel. Perhaps this is because people are more likely to turn a blind eye to male adultery. Perhaps it is because, when "evidence" turns up 9 months later, it points very clearly to a specific woman, but not so clearly to any particular man).

Disclaimer

My intent in answering as I have appears to have been misunderstood by at least one commentator. Let me be crystal clear: I am absolutely not promoting the "keep women under lock and key" approach as a solution to any real-world problem. In the real world, I find such an approach utterly abhorrent.

Just as the OP is interested in a fictional world where adulterers are punished, I am proposing a fictional approach to bringing about a (more-or-less) similar result.

Handled well, the fictional oppression of any group in society can drive moving narrative, and can underpin compelling high-stakes drama. At the same time, fictional oppression can be a great vehicle for thought-provoking social commentary. It can encourage debate, and (I hope) it can help create a cultural environment where positive social change is possible.

I'm thinking of Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses, for example.

More pertinently, I deeply admire the way that Margaret Atwood set The Handmaid's Tale in an extremely misogynistic society. She has my admiration, not because I endorse the society that she wrote about, but because it drew my attention to the appalling mistreatment that some women face in the real world (and because it enabled her to tell a rattlingly good story at the same time).

I hope and pray that I am a better human being for having read Atwood, Blackman, etc. and that fictional oppression can be a vehicle for reducing oppression in reality.

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    $\begingroup$ -1, just for writing 'it is always the women'. Restricting the freedom of women does not end men cheating, look in the history of the world. Freedom of women makes it easier for women to avoid cheating men. (And to get their own back if needed.) $\endgroup$ – Willeke May 31 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Willeke I accept your down-vote. But, to be clear, I meant that it is typically women who are robbed of their rights. I'm certainly not recommending this approach $\endgroup$ – Kramii May 31 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ Then you may want to change your text, so it is not describing the 'keep the women under your thumb so they do not cheat'. Or at least does not seem to say that. $\endgroup$ – Willeke May 31 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I am feeling the basis of this answer is wrong, keeping women restricted will not help (rape by relatives and friends of the male of the family is too common.) Editing to get it acceptable would mean to replace restrict women to restrict men, (which is not an easy switch.) And torture and stoning has never helped, will never help and should never be talked about in a positive view. (Whatever the writer of the book wants does not matter, you do NOT promote torture in any way.) $\endgroup$ – Willeke May 31 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ This solution completely ignores that people can also cheat with same-sex people. It doesn't stop men from cheating with other men, which is a thing that happened quite often in history. More so, it makes it easier to create adulterous situations by enabling some men to sell off usage of their wives to other men. This doesn't work at all. $\endgroup$ – T. Sar Jun 1 at 14:17
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One clear-cut indicator is Pregnancy

Assuming there's a male and a female, and all the cyclic timing lines up, and biology takes it's course, there's a bun-in-the-oven that becomes more obvious as time goes on.

Downside to this is that it confirms what happened, but in no way proves the other party's identity.

Depending on the needs of your plot, this might be resolved when the birth occurs, and the baby comes out with X coloured hair, same as the purported adulterator when the woman's spouse has a different colour.

Downsides, all babies are ugly and look like neither parent. This fails if a pregnancy is not possible because of any-number of reasons. And timing - babies take 9 months to produce, so any adulterous claims might take that long to be resolved.


Edit - this has almost no bearing on identifying the male.

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    $\begingroup$ The hair color of a person as a newborn and the hair color of the same individual as an adult are not necessarily the same. $\endgroup$ – John May 31 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ Not all sex results in babies, and even when a baby is the result of sex, if the women also has sex in the same period with her husband, it will be very hard to proof who is the father. $\endgroup$ – Willeke Jun 1 at 10:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Willeke certainly, but there's only one cause of pregnancy. And if the "rightful" male knows it wasn't him (ie he was away for 6 months), then that's pretty positive proof. $\endgroup$ – Criggie Jun 1 at 12:03
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Hammurabi is way ahead of you all.

Hammurabi's first three laws:

  1. If any one ensnare another, putting a ban upon him, but he can not prove it, then he that ensnared him shall be put to death.
  2. If any one bring an accusation against a man, and the accused go to the river and leap into the river, if he sink in the river his accuser shall take possession of his house. But if the river prove that the accused is not guilty, and he escape unhurt, then he who had brought the accusation shall be put to death, while he who leaped into the river shall take possession of the house that had belonged to his accuser.
  3. If any one bring an accusation of any crime before the elders,and does not prove what he has charged, he shall, if it be a capital offense charged, be put to death.

Basically, you can't always prove that the adultery occurred, but you make it so that if the accused can prove their innocence, the accuser will be killed. This will really cut down on the false accusations! Especially since all it takes is one reliable witness willing to back up an alibi for either of the accused. Accusers if they're smart will only bring charges when the offense is absolutely undeniable.

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On the assumption that it is only male-female cheating that is to be punished (since this is the only way that a cheating gene might be propagated to the next generation), we can achieve this by segregation of the genders:

All women live apart from all men other than their juvenile male offspring. Men and women live in seperate walled areas into which no mature member of the opposite sex is permitted to enter unescorted. Juvenile males are sent to live with the men at the age of 7.

All interactions between men and women take place in a designated walled area within which no concealment is possible, with no clothing permitted. All business, including copulation, takes place in public with multiple witnesses assigned by a roster.

All people are permitted to interact with each other in the areas that they are permitted to enter without an escort. Assigned witnesses are watching only for unauthorised copulation or a person wearing the wrong jewellery (see below).

When married, each partner receives a lockable item of jewellery that only their partner can unlock, that carries a highly visible pattern identical to that worn by their partner, but is otherwise unique.

A mature person being caught outside any of these areas in company with a mature member of the opposite sex to whom they are not married without a sufficiency of chaperones or witnesses is considered to be cheating.

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  • $\begingroup$ When you say "only male-female cheating that is to be punished", do you mean only punishing men cheating on women? Or that this is exclusive to heterosexual relationships? If the latter, the next sentence makes sense; otherwise if there is an "adulterer gene" it could very well be an X chromosomal recessive gene, requiring both parents to pass it on for a child to carry it. A Y chromosomal gene would in fact only affect males in the society. $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 10 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ Actually, I meant any person cheating on their partner with a member of the opposite sex, be they male or female. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Jun 11 at 10:15
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If you want to get cruel and oppressive enough:

  1. All sex must occur with a certain level of supervision or at least an OK from the authorities.

  2. Any babies that are born but were not conceived in this manner are put to death.

Now while you might argue that the babies are unfairly punished for the crimes of (one of) the parents, it still achieves the stated goal of removing the "adulterer's gene" from the gene pool.

Not without its faults admittedly, but I'd imagine no system of justice in ancient Greek / Egyptian time is...

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  • $\begingroup$ Putting a child to death would be more of a scare tactic, as there's only a percent chance that the actual "adulterer's gene" was inherited by the child, and would only prevent the gene from potentially being passed on years later when the child reaches reproductive maturity. I really like the idea of "supervised sex" in an oppressive state; literally having a government representative watch you in the act is the ultimate expression of oppression. This also opens up doors for underground prohibition-esque "free sex zones" which could be a plot point. $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 10 at 17:33
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As others have said, this would (should) play out similar to witch hunts. In cases like this, guilt is determined not based on physical evidence and investigation, but on what those in-world place their faith in as being "sound" sources of truth.

Given the context of the world you have here there are a number of things that could fit this criteria and the technological limitations of your world. I would combine many of these things as we are after all talking about removing the judged party from the gene pool—serious business indeed.

  1. Eyewitness Accounts: Generally part of every trial. Perhaps one neighbor has witnessed the suspected adulterer leaving/returning at a certain time every day, while another has seen our suspect with another person in public.

In situations such as this (at least in our own human history), the accused party generally is responsible for gathering their own witnesses to testify on their behalf.

  1. Physical Evidence: Items such as undergarments would be an obvious form of physical evidence. Given the state of technology, it would make sense to use dogs or a similar animal with good scent to provide this evidence.

You could really take this idea and run with it. Perhaps the courts use specialized hounds for different eugenics cases. If the person is caught in the act/soon after, having an "Adultery Dog" sniff the crotch of the suspected party could provide some insight into whether or not they are guilty.

If some time has passed between the event and the trial, you could use witness testimony to have the dogs sniff out if the suspect has been at a certain place, in someone's room, in their bed.

This could also be an ongoing patrol situation, where police roam the streets with dogs, each trained to catch a certain type of degenerate. An "Adultery Dog" might hit on a man walking by for example if they pick up the scent of two different women on that man. This is a very technologically simple way to set up a surveillance-state of sorts that could provide real-time insight into who is doing what.

Also, a snarling dog can be a pretty good deterrent by itself. Perhaps there is some healthy fear of specialized "Eugenics Squads" that utilize dogs to detect those that need removal from the gene pool.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why is it this stackexchange in particular is so full of rogue accounts that simply downvote everything. Dramatically reduces incentive to putting together constructive feedback; fellow writers are the ones who suffer. $\endgroup$ – SentientFlesh Jun 24 at 1:38