Senior judges yesterday met to discuss the constitutionality of a law that makes adultery a criminal offense, before being ordered by Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) to set a date for a constitutional interpretation within the next month.
The judges met to discuss Article 239 of the Criminal Code on offenses against marriage and family, after 18 judges had called for a constitutional interpretation of the issue.
Taipei District Court Judge Lin Meng-huang (林孟皇) said that while he had previously tried adultery cases and never questioned the law, his feelings changed when trying a case last year involving baseball star Wang Chuan-jia (王傳家).
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
During that case evidence was presented showing Wang naked in bed with a female fan surnamed Tu (杜), which later became public, and Lin felt this was a violation of Wang’s personal privacy, he said.
In the case in March last year, Lin ruled that the video evidence presented to the court was insufficient for there to be a prosecution as it did not show penetration. Wang and Tu were found not guilty.
Laws should evolve along with the progress of time, and although most Taiwanese support the law on adultery, such a law erodes personal freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, Lin said.
“Decriminalizing adultery does not mean encouraging people to have affairs, but you cannot deal with the pain and suffering caused by adultery by using the criminal justice system,” he said. “You must find another way of dealing with those emotions.”
To use the Criminal Code to punish what equates to “immoral behavior” limits a person’s sexual autonomy and personal privacy, and runs contrary to the Constitution, he added.
The justice system should not get involved in people’s intimate relations, Lin said, adding that the happiness of a marriage depends on the conduct of those involved.
Deputy Minister of Justice Tsai Pi-chung (蔡碧仲), who opposes the decriminalization of adultery, said that since marriage is entered into freely, the courts have a duty to protect the institutions of marriage and the family.
With 70 to 80 percent of the public opposed to the decriminalization of adultery, the Council of Grand Justices’ decision on the matter should respect public opinion, he said.
High Court Judge Pong Shing-ming (彭幸鳴) said that times have changed and more people recognize an individual’s sexual autonomy.
There are already sufficient laws to protect the interests of married couples and adultery should be decriminalized, Pong said.
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