South Korea's Constitutional Court struck down a decades-old law Thursday that had punished men for making false promises of marriage to engage in sex with women.
The nine-member court ruled in a 6-3 verdict that the law infringed upon women's dignity and privacy and didn't reflect the current social trend on sex and individualism.
The ruling said the law treated women like "infants," and went against the government's "constitutional obligation to aim for the equality of men and women."
Despite the ruling, South Korea remains deeply conservative and is still influenced by a Confucian heritage after decades of Western influence. Last year, the Constitutional Court upheld a law against adultery, rejecting complaints the law is outdated and constitutes an invasion of privacy. Those convicted under the anti-adultery law face prison sentences of up to two years.
The law tossed out Thursday had punished South Korean men who deceived their girlfriends into having sex with up to a two-year prison term and a fine of more than $4,000. Enacted in 1953, the law only held men liable for false promises of marriage.
"The government should refrain from interfering in men's sexual activities of tempting women in an unharmful manner," the verdict said.
Some rights groups have said the 56-year-old provision aimed at protecting women is anachronistic and views women as inferior.
Korean Womenlink, a major women's rights group in Seoul, said it welcomed the court's verdict.
"It had not been a law that protected women's human rights but a law that protected women's chastity," Korean Womenlink said in a statement.
The court acted on petitions filed by two South Korean men who were convicted of violating the law in recent years.
Court spokesman Noh Hee-bum said the verdict means that the law was immediately abolished and all South Korean men penalized under the law could be acquitted of earlier convictions and receive state compensation if they file for a retrial.
The number of South Korean men indicted under the law had been gradually decreasing, with 42 indicted in 2006 compared with 269 in 1981, according to a court release.