Adultery (voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not their spouse) is a practice or an act that is frowned upon by almost every society, if not all, but the practice is actually a crime in Taiwan. Like anywhere, adultery is a daily occurrence in Taiwan, and rarely a day passes when an adulterous couple are not sentenced to jail time.
According to Article 239 of Taiwan’s Criminal Code, “A married person who commits adultery with another shall be sentenced to imprisonment for not more than one year; the other party to the adultery shall be subject to the same punishment.”
In practice, few people are jailed because the sentence can be commuted to a fine of about NT$900 per day of jail time. They are, however, stuck with a criminal record. Taiwan is the only developed nation in the world with such a law (South Korea struck down its adultery law in 2014). The law’s original purpose was to ensure harmony in the marriage and maintain social stability. And with divorce on the rise, marriages in decline, hostess bars dotting the cityscape and the ubiquitous availability of hook-up apps, it may seem that the continued criminalization of adultery might be more necessary than ever before.
A 2013 poll showed that 82.2 percent of Taiwanese support the law. But legal scholars and human rights activists say that the law does nothing to deter adultery. Moreover, the manner in which evidence is often gathered is a violation of privacy that results in all sorts of absurd behavior, and is a human rights issue because the lion’s share of suits are brought against women, even though men are more likely to commit adultery.