The Council of Grand Justices ruling yesterday that adultery as a crime is unconstitutional drew praise from some women’s rights groups, who called it a “milestone for the progress of Taiwan’s Constitution and gender justice,” but others said the decision would only result in more adultery.
After the council issued Constitutional Interpretation No. 791 at 4pm, several groups gathered outside the Judicial Yuan in support of the decision, including the Awakening Foundation, the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation and the Taiwan Gender Equality Education Association.
In a press release, the Awakening Foundation said that the ruling protects a person’s sexual autonomy, privacy and dignity from being compromised in a marriage.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
The interpretation shows that the council took the evolving definitions of an intimate relationship, as well as diversity in modern marriages, into consideration, it said.
The ruling could be a blow to victims of adultery who seek justice by invoking the Criminal Code, but criminal punishment should not be the answer, as it cannot force a person to remain in a marriage against their wishes, the statement said.
Decriminalizing adultery is not tantamount to agreeing with adultery, it added.
Since a marriage starts from the Civil Code, people should only invoke the code in the face of marital disputes, and focus on constructive solutions, such as the distribution of wealth and childcare if a couple chooses to divorce, or counseling should they wish to remain together, it said.
“Hopefully, decriminalizing adultery and allowing marital affairs be dealt with solely by the Civil Code would allow people to handle emotional lows related to marriage in a healthier way,” the foundation said.
Opposition groups said that the council’s decision values sexual autonomy more than marriage and family, calling the interpretation “outrageous, insane and not in line with public opinion.”
Coalition for the Happiness of our Next Generation president Tseng Hsien-ying (曾獻瑩) said that decriminalizing adultery would fuel adultery and create “a world full of adulterers.”
Treating adultery as a crime has preventive effects and helps uphold family values, as well as protect disadvantaged women and children, Tseng said.
Without the support of the Criminal Code, people betrayed by their partners would only be more disadvantaged, as they have fewer resources to claim compensation, he added.
Mothers Shield Alliance deputy secretary-general Shan Hsin-ai (單信愛) said that many mothers would shed tears of sorrow upon hearing the ruling, as it deprives them of the protections afforded by the Criminal Code, and “all the sacrifices and efforts they make for the family could be for nothing.”
The council’s ruling could make women lose faith in marriage and distort young people’s values of marriage, as they might think that they can “cheat with as many people as they want if they have money.”
Treating adultery as a crime helps keep families on track and serves the public interest well, Shan said, adding that the government should introduce complementary measures to safeguard the rights of women.
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