SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

From Social Advocacy to the Constitutional Court: The Transformation of the Feminist Movement to Decriminalise Adultery in Taiwan

Dr. Hsiaowei Kuan

Date: 6 July 2020Time: 9:00 AM

Finishes: 6 July 2020Time: 10:30 AM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Summer School

As part of the 2020 SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies Summer School, we kindly ask that you register to attend

This event will be held online through Blackboard Collaborate.

*Please be aware that all Summer School event times follow British Summer Time (BST)


On May 29, 2020, the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled that the penal punishment of adultery contravenes the constitutional protection of people’s sexual autonomy and the right to privacy and shall be void. Five people jailed for adultery were released immediately on the same day, and over 160 cases, ongoing court cases are expected to be dropped. This landmark ruling has manifested a closure of the feminists’ decades-long movement to decriminalise adultery in Taiwan (hereinafter as “the Movement”). By the time of the early 1990s, when Taiwan’s feminists first raised the issue of decriminalisation, the penal punishment of adultery was imposed by law for almost fifty years after the end of World War II. The gender-neutral punishment was widely believed by wives as protection of monogamous marriage and as an effective way to prevent husbands from having extramarital sex. The opponents of the Movement, albeit acknowledged that decriminalisation of adultery could be a long-term goal, insisted that present practices and law of divorce did not provide sufficient protection for wives’ interest in and after divorce proceedings. However, even when the divorce law and proceedings had been reformed as more gender-equal and no-fault based after two decades, the public support for criminal punishment of adultery remained strong. How did the activists in the Movement tackle the challenges from the public and within the feminist allies? How did the Movement appeal to gender equality by adopting a human rights approach in the past decade? This speech will review the development of the Movement, especially focusing on the strategy of the Movement’s adoption of rights/legal mobilization at the different platforms within the government and in the Constitutional Court in addition to its continuing effort in social advocacy.


Kuan Hsiao-wei Profile 2020

Dr. Hsiaowei Kuan is an Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Fundamental Legal Studies at College of Law, National Taipei University, Taiwan. She received her S.J.D from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Her work addresses gender and law, legal mobilization, women’s rights, and LGBT rights. She co-edited a textbook on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (with Wen-Chen Chang, 2015) and has served as a member of the board of directors at the Awakening Foundation and a board member of the Taiwan LGBT Family Advocacy.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies

Contact email: