Although the double standard is centuries old, in France it changed over time. The Napoleonic Penal Code prescribed much harsher penalties for wives convicted of adultery than for husbands found guilty of the same crime. Nonetheless, by the late nineteenth century a growing number of wives separated from abusive husbands and in some cases took up with lovers. An analysis of the verdicts in the important Correctional Court of Marseille shows that the judges became increasingly sympathetic to such women when they were charged with adultery. The decisions of judges in adultery cases appear to have been related to broader changes in gender relations and the family. One outcome was the 1884 law legalizing divorce and permitting both spouses to sue for divorce on the same terms.
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