Universalism or Cultural Relativism? Case Study of Same-Sex Marriage in Taiwan

Erich Hou

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    According to Article 23(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and found a family should be recognised. Traditionally, the right to marry and found a family is reserved for heterosexual couples only. This view is embodied in the 2002 United Nations Communication of Joslin v New Zealand. In 2013, same-sex marriage in New Zealand became legal. Nevertheless, Joslin is still being cited elsewhere by anti-same-sex marriage campaigners and lawyers globally.

    Even in a country-specific scenario, the legal status of same-sex marriage is far from clear. For example, since 2014 same-sex marriage has become legal in England, Wales and Scotland but this does not apply to Northern Ireland. Whilst many Western countries campaign for same-sex marriage, many postcolonial countries still criminalise private male-to-male consensual sex between adults. Relying on the defence of ‘Asian Values’, some particularly argue that ‘gay rights are not human rights’.

    There seems to be a general South/North or East/West divide (developing/developed) in the global debate on same-sex marriage. Using the 2017 Taiwanese case of Cha-Wei Chi v Taipei, reportedly ‘the first same-sex marriage case in Asia’, this paper explores the validity of the above cultural relativist argument against universal human rights.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Asian Yearbook of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
    Subtitle of host publicationVolume 3, 2019, Law, Gender and Sexuality
    EditorsJavaid Rehman, Ayesha Shahid, Steve Foster
    ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-40171-6
    ISBN (Print)978-90-04-40170-9
    Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2019
    EventLaw Gender and Sexuality Conference - British Institute of International and Comparative Law, London
    Duration: 26 Oct 201826 Oct 2018

    Publication series

    NameAsia Yearbook of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
    ISSN (Print)2452-0578


    ConferenceLaw Gender and Sexuality Conference
    Internet address


    • Same Sex Marriage
    • Taiwan
    • Asia
    • Universalism
    • Cultural Relativism


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