Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You must be mad to be married

At a bar not too far from the Family Courts in Taipei, Taiwan, I overheard a divorce lawyer slurring his words: 

“You must be mad to get married in Taiwan.”

He must have had a hard day at the divorce courts.


Just recently, a jilted wife in Taiwan filed for divorce from her adulterous husband with unintended consequences. Adultery is a criminal offence in the country and each ‘shot’ of adultery can put you in jail for 4 months. For a 5-year affair with his neighbour the husband was faced with the prospect of a 298-year jail sentence.

The country’s fault-based divorce laws sit in stark contrast with the emerging global adoption of a no-fault divorce laws where couples can get divorced without one person having to prove that the other one is "at fault" for the breakdown of their marriage. New York City in 2012 became the last State in the US to replace their fault-based divorce laws, joining a growing number of other countries.

In our global village many differences between the east and the west are being bridged with cheaper and faster technology, the affairs of the heart is one last bastion of change that is still finding strong resistance within parts of Asia.

According to a recent latest survey done by the justice ministry of Taiwan in April 2013, 82% of people said they opposed decriminalisation of adultery. Most married women surveyed in Taiwan chose to keep this law as they believe making it a criminal offense will stop their husbands cheating on them. I suspect the judiciary 
also  works on the general policy that divorce is bad and marriage is good and one way to keep people married is to make divorce hard to get by only granting divorce based on a list of state-approved reason, like adultery, insanity, or extreme cruelty.

Unfortunately “unhappiness” does not seem to be listed as a reason.

So if both were unhappy with each other in Taiwan and neither subscribes to being adulterous nor cruel then they are trapped forever. ……till death do us part?

Unless of course if you plead insanity – get yourself diagnosed with some sort of mental disorder.

Coincidentally, in 2012 the prevalence of common mental disorders has doubled over the past 20 years in Taiwan, paralleling increases in unemployment, divorce and suicide, according to the results of a study by Taiwan's top research institute, Academia Sinica. The study highlighted that being a married woman increases the risk of having a mental disorder.

Putting the results of the survey and study together, does this mean that there may be plenty of unhappy women in Taiwan wanting to get out of a marriage – and the only way out is to be mad?

Perhaps the divorce lawyer was not as drunk as I imagined him to be.


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