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New Taiwan amendment bans teacher-student romance

Teachers banned from going on dates, watching movies, or using intimate terms with students

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National Taiwan University (Photo/NTU FB_by Ming-Yu Chen)

National Taiwan University (Photo/NTU FB_by Ming-Yu Chen)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Among a number of new draft amendments to the "Three Gender Equality Laws" passed by the Cabinet on Thursday (July 13) is a new regulation that would ban teacher-student affairs (師生戀).

The Cabinet approved draft amendments that define sexual harassment involving power dynamics, extend the statute of limitations for filing complaints, and increases penalties. The three acts that will be amended include the Gender Equity Education Act, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, reported China Times.

Under the new amendments, the heaviest punishment for individuals convicted of sexual offenses will be raised to a maximum of three years in prison from the current two years. Employers or the highest level of representatives of companies or organizations found to have sexually harassed their subordinates face a maximum administrative fine of NT$1 million.

Supervisors or teachers who commit sexual misconduct against their subordinates or students will face up to N$600,000 in fines. In civil court, victims would also be able to seek up to five times the original amount of damages from perpetrators who are either their employer or head of an educational institute.

This revision of the law adds new regulations to relationships for teachers and students. Going on dates, watching movies, or using overly intimate terms of address between teachers and students may violate the law. Principals and faculty found breaching these regulations could face dismissal or permanent bans on teaching.

In the amended draft of the Gender Equity Education Act, "campus gender incidents" are defined. In addition to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual bullying, "principals or faculty members (who) violate professional ethics related to sex or gender" are added.

If principals, teachers, and staff use their position of power over students when teaching, guidance, training, evaluation, management, and counseling, or providing job opportunities to engage in relationships that break professional ethics such as teacher-student affairs, serious cases could result in a life-long ban from the profession.

The draft amendments will be sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation and could go into force as soon as August. Scholars argue that this ban on inappropriate relationships between teachers and students from high school and below is necessary, but will be a challenge for college campuses filled with adults.

National Chengchi University Associate Professor Liao Yuan-hao (廖元豪) told the newspaper the overall approach and direction are correct, but the specific regulations and explanations are unclear. He said that from a legal perspective, "romantic relationships" are a vague concept, and the law does not explain or define what constitutes a romantic relationship.