TAIPEI, Taiwan – Taiwan’s top court decriminalized adultery Friday, May 29, ruling the law against it breached constitutional protections of sexual autonomy and equality, in a move hailed by rights groups.
“The Criminal Code should not be used to punish actions that hurt personal feelings,” Hsu Tzong-li, the head of the constitutional court said in announcing the order.
Adultery in Taiwan had been punishable by up to a year in prison.
Those convicted normally paid a fine instead of serving time in jail, although they still received criminal records.
The ruling comes after similar moves in India and South Korea in recent years to strike down adultery laws.
Rights groups in Taiwan say women were 20% more likely to be convicted than men in adultery cases, while campaigners against the law said it deepened gender inequality and violated rights to privacy. (READ: 298-year sentence sparks debate over Taiwan adultery law)
It was also used to pressure some victims of sexual crimes to drop charges, according to Wang Yueh-hao, head of rights group the Garden of Hope Foundation.
The law had also allowed plaintiffs to withdraw charges against their spouse while still suing the third party, which the court found a violation of equality.
In one case often cited by rights groups, a college student who came forward to accuse her professor of sexually assaulting her was sued by his wife for adultery, convicted and ordered to compensate the man’s family.
Friday’s ruling “is a new landmark in the protection of gender human rights,” said the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights which advocates marriage and gender equality.
Taiwan last year legalized same-sex marriages, following a 2017 landmark ruling by the constitutional court in favor of the move.
Opponents slammed the decision by the court to decriminalize adultery as “absurd” and “exaggerated.”
“Protecting the institution of marriage and family is a personal as well as national obligation,” the Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation said in a statement.
The cabinet said it respected the court’s decision, but reminded the public that adultery is still liable to civil lawsuits for compensation.
“Declaring the offence of adultery unconstitutional and invalid doesn’t mean the act is acceptable or bear no legal consequences,” it said in a statement. – Rappler.com