Human Rights in Asia-Pacific; Review of 2019 - Taiwan


In a major development, the Taiwan Legislative Yuan passed a law legalizing marriage between same-sex couples in May, making Taiwan the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage. The government held its third review of the implementation of the ICCPR and the ICESCR from July to September. In July, the Taipei High Administrative Court revoked Asia Cement Corporation’s mining permit in Taroko National Park, home to Indigenous Peoples.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)

On 17 May the Legislative Yuan passed The Enforcement Act of the Judicial Yuan Interpretation No.748, legalizing same-sex marriage.[1] It had been two years since the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of equal marriage and ordered the government to change the law. Under the new law, same-sex couples are granted the same right to marry as opposite-sex couples. Many of the same rights and obligations applied to opposite-sex couples under the existing regulations in the Civil Code are now applied to same-sex couples.

However, the law falls short of genuine and full marriage equality in some areas. It does not provide equal adoption rights for same-sex couples. The law only allows spouses in same-sex marriages to adopt the biological children of their partners, but not joint adoption of non-biological children, as permitted for opposite-sex married couples. The law only covers same sex marriage between Taiwanese citizens and those foreign spouses whose countries have legalized same-sex unions.

Despite the achievement in enhancing the protection of LGBTI rights, there is more to be done to improve awareness about the need for anti-discrimination in society, especially in schools. Homophobia, distorted views on LGBTI people and bias still exist in some parts of society and the education system.

Legal, constitutional or institutional developments

The government carries out parallel reviews of the implementation of international human rights laws as Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations. In 2009, the Legislative Yuan passed legislation to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which made them legally binding in Taiwan. However, the judicial and executive branches have been slow to recognize the principles of equality and anti-discrimination, prevention of torture, and non-refoulement. The government held its NGO consultation for the State Report on the third review of the implementation of the ICCPR and the ICESCR. Abolition of the death penalty, torture and other ill-treatment, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, LGBTI rights and migrant workers’ rights were topics covered.

Death penalty

At the beginning of the year, Amnesty International representatives visited Chiou Ho-shun who has been on death row since 1989.[2] He was sentenced to death for robbery, kidnapping and murder in 1989. Chiou Ho-shun and his 11 co-defendants said they were held incommunicado for the first four months of detention, and claimed they were tortured into making confessions, which they later retracted. Only Chiou Ho-shun was sentenced to death. His co-defendants were sentenced to varying prison terms which they have all completed, apart from one who died in prison. The court sent the case back to the High Court for retrial for the 11th time in August 2009. In 2011 the High Court again upheld Chiou Ho-shun’s death sentence. After this ruling, Chiou Ho-shun told the court: “I haven’t killed anyone. Why don’t judges have the courage to find me not guilty?” The same year, Chiou Ho-shun lost his final appeal to the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General rejected a request to seek an extraordinary appeal for a retrial.

Indigenous Peoples’ rights

In July, the Taipei High Administrative Court revoked the extension of Asia Cement Corporation’s permit for mining in the Taroko people’s traditional territory. Taroko people filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Economic Affairs after the ministry had ignored the residents’ demands and in 2016 granted an extension of mining permit to the company up to 2037. The court found that the extension violated the Indigenous Peoples Basic Law and noted that Taroko people who live nearby should have been consulted.

[1] Amnesty International: Taiwan becomes first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage after historic bill passes (Press Release, 17 May 2019)

[2] Amnesty International: Visitor no. 274 and 275: Going to see Taiwan’s death row prisoner of 30 years (Blog, 7 May 2019)


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