Whereas 51.9 percent of accusations against husbands are withdrawn, the withdrawal rate for accusations lodged against wives is 43 percent. This figure falls to 31.7 percent for accusations filed against female third parties, and just 22.8 percent for those lodged against male third parties.
An analysis of the statistics further reveals that wives are more willing than husbands to simultaneously withdraw accusations against an allegedly adulterous spouse and the other allegedly adulterous person.
These figures correspond with the way society views husbands’ and wives’ affairs, and with the choices society expects people to make about whether or not to forgive third parties.
The gender prejudice that causes this discrepancy in punishment makes the law discriminatory in practice, even though the prejudice is not written into the terms of the law.
The spirit of the UN’s International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is concerned with “practical” or “actual” gender equality. Given the way the adultery law is implemented, it does cause a breach of the principle of equality in practice.
Taiwan’s plan for implementing the CEDAW, which is dubbed “big strides ahead for gender equality,” says that if there is a gender discrepancy of 3 percent or more in the results of implementing any law, then that law should immediately be seen as violating gender equality in practice, and it should be put on the agenda for improvement through amendment or abolition.
The figures quoted above show that the gender discrepancy in punishment for the offense of adultery carries a ratio of 54 percent to 45 percent. Accordingly, the law that makes adultery a criminal offense should immediately be put on the agenda for legal review.
Of the females punished for adultery, 40 percent are married women — the very group people think is protected by making adultery a criminal offense.
Married women who are accused of adultery, and those who are punished for it, tend to be economically disadvantaged and are often the victims of domestic violence.
Many of their cases have sad stories behind them. It is often said that having an affair is a mistake that any man could make, but when a woman does it, she is called a “slut.”
If women make such a mistake and get found out, they not only lose their children and their dignity, but also get saddled with a criminal record.
The differing attitudes that people have toward men and women who have extramarital affairs cause such women to be abandoned by the social majority.
The opprobrium accorded to them discourages them from speaking out, and there are even some people of a patriarchal inclination who say that lawbreakers have no right to human rights.
At this point, we must ask whether it is really necessary to employ the harshest means available to state authority to prevent and punish a mistake that both men and women can make, all for the sake of safeguarding marriage.
As longstanding advocates of gender equality, are we really willing at this time to make a united front with those patriarchal types who are always telling women to maintain their sexual purity and be meek and obedient?