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The good and bad of women's rights in Taiwan

Gender equality activists opinions on the progress of women's rights in Taiwan

Protesters at Women's Right march raise up slogans advocating gender equality.

Protesters at Women's Right march raise up slogans advocating gender equality. (Taiwan News photo)

Taipei (Taiwan News)—Female protesters interviewed at the Women's March on Wednesday generally perceived the progress of women's rights in a positive light, stating the country's election of a female president Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) was seen by many as a huge leap forward in women's rights.

Women from developing countries responded they felt safer to walk the streets in Taiwan at night than back in their home country.

"In my home country they tell us women have to avoid being raped by men, instead of telling men to stop raping women," said Michelle from Sudan. "I have to get home before sundown at 6 p.m. or 7 p.m."

Priya Lawluani Purswaney, an Indian interpreter who has been in Taiwan for 30 years, said in general she can let her teenage daughter roam Taipei at night without feeling worried, but noted there has been an uptick in violence against women recently.

"The two Korean women raped by the taxi driver, or the model murdered in Neihu District in Taipei recently makes me concerned," she said. "You see it in the media all the time."

Desiree Scott from Swaziland noted patriarchal tendencies can still occasionally be observed in Taiwan's society, especially when Tsai was attacked for being single.

"You don't need a man to do anything," said Scott.

The good and bad of women's rights in Taiwan
Democratic Progressing Party (DPP) lawmaker Yu Mei-nu (尤美女). (Taiwan News)

"Women rights movements in Taiwan started in the 60s and 70s before relevant laws were introduced in the 80s. The law then underwent reforms in the 90s that were gradually implemented in 2000s, but there is still room for improvement," said Democratic Progressing Party (DPP) lawmaker Yu Mei-nu (尤美女).

A recent human rights report released by the U.S. government shows sexual abuse of domestic workers from Southeast Asia is still prevalent in Taiwan and needs to be further addressed, said Yu.

Yu, a strong advocate for marriage equality rights in the Legislative Yuan, highlighted the importance of passing marriage equality rights for LGBT community and improving gender equality education.

Controversial material encouraging sexual exploration and gender orientation in Taiwan’s gender equality education content for elementary students led certain parent groups to request the material to be banned from schools.

"This is really a backward step," said Yu.

The good and bad of women's rights in Taiwan

Transgender participant Wu Hsin-en (吳馨恩) holds up a sign saying: "Sometimes I wished I could just die after being sexually assaulted." (Taiwan News)

One transgender participant, Wu Hsin-en (吳馨恩), raised the concern that Taiwan needs to improve treatment and protection of transgender sexual assault victims.

"In the U.S. about 46 percent of transgenders are sexual assault victims, but similar statistics are unavailable in Taiwan," said Wu.

Sexual assault protection laws in Taiwan are designed for straight women, and not for transgenders or people with different sexual orientations, said the rape survivor struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Pop singer Lara shared her experience of going into the entertainment industry as a 16-year-old teenager, and the type of woman she was expected to become.

"Girls need to be really thin, really pale, and not talk so much but smile a lot," said the lead singer from Taiwanese band Nan Quan Mama (南拳媽媽), "Don't be too concerned about expressing yourself because people will be more concerned with what you are wearing."

Quoting Martin Luther King "keep moving forward," Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) urged public to press on with women rights issues and marriage equality.

"Gender equality is not a one day event, it is a commitment that we need to make for the rest of our lives," said Indivisible Taiwan founder Mary Goodwin.

Updated : 2021-06-14 11:57 GMT+08:00