Go to contents

[Editorial] Changing With the Times

Posted November. 27, 2009 08:31,   


The Constitutional Court yesterday struck down a law banning men from falsely promising marriage to women to get sex. The ruling came more than 50 years after the law was enacted, reflecting the changes of the times. Six of the nine justices voted to repeal the law, overturning a 2002 ruling of 7-2 that upheld it.

The latest ruling said the law violated gender equality and denied a woman’s right to sexual self-determination, in addition to running counter to women’s dignity and values. Affecting the ruling were significant changes in the Korean perception of sex; increased awareness of privacy; the law’s discriminatory nature against men; the erosion of Confucian patriarchal culture; and the promotion of women’s status. The Health, Welfare and Gender Equality Ministry also submitted a written opinion to the court calling the law discriminatory against men and infringing on women’s sexual rights.

Of the 559 challenges to the law, only 25 people were indicted because most of the cases were settled out of court. Of the 25 indicted, just eight were convicted. The government needs to take action as the law’s abolishment is expected to result in more civil lawsuits.

First enacted in 1953, the law took the clause banning sex based on a false promise of marriage from a West German law on fraudulent adultery that was abolished in 1969. Most advanced countries, excluding certain U.S. states, stay out of what adults do in their beds.

The decision is expected to affect criminal punishment for adultery. The Constitutional Court had upheld the provision four times between 1990 and September last year. In its latest review of the ban last year, five justices found the law unconstitutional, just one vote short of overturning it. The anti-adultery provision is different from that which punishes men who make false promises of marriage to women for sex, as the former does not discriminate by gender and serves the public interest of protecting marriage and family. Many experts, however, say that it is only a matter of time before this law will also be declared unconstitutional.

The 2004 law banning prostitution is also under fire for bringing about undesired side effects while failing to serve its purpose. Discussion of this law’s revision is also needed.