Adultery still a punishable crime in Taiwan

In 2010, a Taiwanese woman was caught having an affair after her husband hid a recorder in her car. She and her lover were sentenced to five months in prison. The sentence can also be converted into a fine. Graphic by NMA.
By Trista di Genova and Wu Bai, The Wild East

Taiwan’s law against adultery (xing-fa 刑法), also known as “Criminal Law Number 239” in the legal code, may seem a strange and archaic animal to some.

To this day adultery is a criminal offense that is punishable by up to one year in prison, with penalties applying to both sexes.

In place since 1935, Taiwan’s Department of Justice defines adultery as “a married person who has sex with another person.”

‘Fornication’ is defined in Taiwan as an adulterous sex act, but specifically it must entail sex with someone of the opposite sex; and involve penetration of one’s sex organ into/by another person’s (reproductive) sex organ, exclusively.

To clarify, none of the following is considered an adulterous act: a ‘handjob’, ‘blowjob’ or anal sex; or homosexual sexual activity.

Most of the time, perhaps 70% of it, charging a spouse with adultery is attempted by the wife, as part of a way to secure a more lucrative divorce settlement. Conversely, a man may try to press charges against the wife to try to avoid parting with his personal fortune.

To prove adultery has taken place, however, can be tricky. A woman might hire one of Taiwan’s countless private ‘dicks’ specializing in this field to follow the husband and take pictures as he leaves ‘a love motel’, for example, with his mistress (called xiao san or ‘little third’, the third person in the marriage).

The photographic evidence then has to convince the judge in a court of law that adultery indeed has been committed. It’s a criminal case; whereas the divorce proceedings are a civil case, under family law.

If the ‘injured’ party files charges against the offending spouse, the lover must also be charged. One or both of those charges, though, may also be dropped.

The ROC’s (Taiwan’s) legal system and its adultery law is affected by Antragsdelikt; in criminal law, this is a category of offense which cannot be prosecuted without a complaint by the victim, (in Chinese, gaosu nailun, 告訴乃論), an influence of German and Japanese legal systems, a legal practice also seen today in Japan and South Korea.

Adultery is a civil not public type of prosecution, and there’s no jury involved; in fact, juries are not part of the Taiwan legal system at all.

In the past, Taiwan’s adultery law has been used as a legal means of exacting revenge. Until the year 2000, someone could sue a spouse for adultery after the divorce had actually taken place. In one case, for example, a woman sued her ex-husband for adultery after the fact.

Some judges began to find this law inappropriate, however, and asked for a panel of judges to preside in order to interpret the law, ultimately changing it.

As international comparison, in China adultery is not considered a crime, but is considered grounds for divorce. (Wikipedia’s ‘adultery’ entry)

A few related cases on the Department of Justice’s website can be found in Chinesehere.

Further reading: ‘Decriminalization of adultery discussed,’ Taipei Times, 2000

6 thoughts on “Adultery still a punishable crime in Taiwan

  • August 12, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    My husband is british and im australian, i separated a few yaers ago fron my husband as he admitted to me and to the australian courts he has been having an affair with a taiwan subject called sakura fang in taiwan. We are not divorced yet but he stays with her in taiwan and has done so for years,
    This affair resulted in the break down of our marriage and my husband not returning to look after our children with me, my husband now owes me 1.3 million in child support and uses staying in tauwan to avoid the taiwan and british and australian authorities.
    I would like to know how to make a complaint and whom to make a complaint to in taiwan regarding the above mentioned matter

  • December 5, 2016 at 12:00 am

    im a Filipino woman and currently married to a Taiwanese for seventh months this year. I came to Taiwan to live with my husband as his wife, then suddenly after three months my husband confessed to me that he has a girlfriend for long time ago before he meet me and marry me. Now, my husband plan is to stay his girlfriend or mistress into our house and we live as three together. My husband doesn’t want to separate with her mistress or doesn’t want to choose between me and the mistress. I want to seek a legal advice. we don’t have children yet. please sent me email to my email address. thank you. do not published my problem please. because my husband will knows about this if he read it.

    • June 1, 2019 at 3:37 am

      bwahahahahah welcome to Taiwan

  • December 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm

    my girlfriend is a taiwanese citizen she is a widow,we have an affair almost 3yrs here in phillippines.and she has an affair with another guy a pilipono too.she using the money of the government,a pension coming from the government to go back here in the our country to see her another she have a right to go back here and spend it like that?and she has a 3 kids in taiwan.what will the government do about this matter?

  • February 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

    My grilfriend is a 53 year old Japanes amrried woman
    After 4 and half years in love with she found another she claims is half Japanese and having an affair with him too. What will happen to us (two guys) if the husband finds out

    • January 15, 2019 at 11:49 pm

      My sister boyfriend have a wife , she have a relation for 3 years. But since she realize that is not right she decided to seperate to him. But the wife have a court order to my sister . Help me if my sister go on jail


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