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Adult teacher-student relationships to remain legal in Taiwan

Teachers still allowed to date adult students if no asymmetric power dynamics are present

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NTU campus lined with palm trees. (Facebook photo)

NTU campus lined with palm trees. (Facebook photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Ministry of Education (MOE) on Thursday (July 20) clarified that although a new draft amendment to the "Three Gender Equality Laws" that it had approved the previous week would ban teacher-student relationships (師生戀), a conditional exception will be made for adult teachers and students.

On July 13, the Cabinet approved draft amendments to the Gender Equity Education Act, the Act of Gender Equality in Employment, and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act that define sexual harassment involving power dynamics, extend the statute of limitations for filing complaints, and increase penalties. However, an amendment to the Gender Equity Education Act generated controversy because it appeared to ban teacher-student relationships at all levels, including among adults at universities.

The MOE on Thursday, explained the law bans teachers from having romances with minors or adults with whom they could use their superior position to manipulate into having a romantic relationship, reported Liberty Times. However, if the student is an adult, the two are actually in love, and as the previously mentioned asymmetric power dynamics are not present, the restriction does not apply.

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, providing guidance, training, evaluation, management, counseling, or job opportunities to engage in relationships that break professional ethics such as teacher-student relationships, serious cases could result in a life-long ban from the profession.

This amendment has sparked controversy as it is perceived as a prohibition on teacher-student relationships of all ages and has raised concerns about being unconstitutional. On Thursday, most of the proposed clauses were reviewed and passed by legislators from both the ruling and opposition parties in the Education and Culture Committee, while the disputed clauses will be subject to further negotiation among the party caucuses.