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Expert bemoans slow progress for Taiwan's gender equality reforms

Lawyer notes difficulties in implementation, and calls for education to prevent sexual harassment

Former Labor Ministry minister Wang Ju-hsuan shares insights on Taiwan's gender equality amendments. (Facebook, Wang Ju-hsuan photo)

Former Labor Ministry minister Wang Ju-hsuan shares insights on Taiwan's gender equality amendments. (Facebook, Wang Ju-hsuan photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The #MeToo movement drives Taiwan's gender equality reform, but an expert has raised concerns about slow progress.

On July 13, the Executive Yuan approved amendments to the Gender Equality Three Acts (性平三法), which include the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法), Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法), and Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法). These amendments increased administrative, criminal, and civil liabilities for power-based sexual harassment, with a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a fine of up to NT$1 million (US$32,044).

On Tuesday (July 18), the amendments were sent to the Legislative Yuan for handling at an extraordinary session, reflecting the ruling party's commitment to gender equality reforms. Wang Ju-hsuan (王如玄), a lawyer and board member of the Modern Women's Foundation, told Taiwan News the amendments did not address the fundamental issues.

Wang, who previously served as a minister in the Labor Ministry and was selected by the Kuomintang (KMT) to run for the presidency with Eric Chu (朱立倫) in 2016, said the foundation has been protecting women's rights since 1987.

Wang said the issue of power-based harassment is only a small part of gender equality cases. The real problem lies in the need to increase employer responsibility and impose heavier penalties for malicious retaliation.

The Gender Equality Three Acts have long faced difficulties in implementation due to government ministries passing on responsibility to each other, Wang said. Additionally, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act still excludes cases related to the other two acts, leaving victims of sexual harassment without proper recourse.

Wang added schools only teach the basics of gender equality and fail to educate children on taking action when facing harassment. "It is challenging for victims to provide evidence, not to mention the fear of retaliation and pressure coming from societal discrimination."

She said there was a need to establish a Gender Violence Prevention Office in the Presidential Office. This would encourage bystander intervention, and prohibit wrongdoers from gaining government subsidies.

Additionally, Wang urged the Ministry of Labor to keep up with the times and abandon traditional employer-centric thinking. She called on the ministry to provide detailed guidelines for industries to protect workers' rights when facing sexual harassment.