Stigmatized adultery should be; illegal it should not


The China Post news staff

For many years before and after the 1911 Revolution, in southern China, adulterous couples caught enjoying their guilty — or not-so-guilty — pleasure were punished by death. Clan elders would order that the offenders be hogtied and stuffed into a hog cage with heavy rocks attached to it before the oblong, mesh-like bamboo device with a human load in it was thrown into a river. The effectiveness of such a deterrent was never documented, but the barbaric nature of the punishment had sickened so many people that for quite a long time after World War II, many heart-wrenching films were made to expose the harsh private punishment no less cruel or crude than stoning.

In Taiwan, adultery is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment. According to Article 239 of the country’s Criminal Code, a married individual who commits adultery is subject to a prison term of up to one year, with the other party to the adultery subject to the same punishment. Incidentally, adultery is not a crime in mainland China, but constitutes grounds for divorce. Women’s groups are arguing that although the article punishes offenders of both sexes, it discriminates against women by failing to take the plight of the women involved into adequate consideration. The law, made and amended a few decades ago when there was no equality between the sexes, also is obsolete in light of changing social circumstances, they say. Another reason they have cited for striking down the section is that according to government statistics, 50 percent of women who sue their husbands for adultery will eventually drop the charges, but only 23 percent of men will drop such charges against their wives, resulting in a higher conviction rate among women.