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Asian Lawyers Exchange Meeting 4 “Seminar on Gender Issues in Taiwan”

On July 25, 2022, ALN (Asian Lawyers Network) members participated in an online seminar organized by the University of Tokyo aiming at providing the opportunity for Asian lawyers and experts to exchange information and share knowledge. A Taiwanese lawyer Guo I-Ching (郭怡青) was invited as a lecturer and talked about laws related to gender-equality in Taiwan. Ms. Guo is currently a member of the Taiwan Human Rights Promotion Association and is collaborating with the NGO that has the longest history of gender-related movements in Taiwan. Below is a summary of her lecture.


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Taiwan's Gender Equality Law: Its History and Current Situation


The current position of gender equality in Taiwan

Although China is a member of the United Nations, the World Economic Forum’s gender equality rankings do not specify figures for Taiwan. However, according to the following data calculated by the Taiwanese government based on the official data calculated by the United Nations, Taiwan ranks quite high in the world ranking.



History of legislation on Gender: 1985 to present

Regarding gender laws, the 1985 amendment to the Civil Code probably had the greatest impact. The amendments included the provision of separate surnames for married couples and the equality of parental authority in the event of a divorce.


1995: Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act

1997: Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act

1998: Domestic Violence Prevention Act

1999: Rape Law reform

2002: Act of Gender Equality in Employment

2004: Gender Equity Education Act

2005: Sexual Harassment Prevention Act

2009: Human Trafficking Prevention Act

2011: Enforcement Act of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

2019: Act for Implementation of J.Y. Interpretation No. 748 (Same-Sex Marriage Act)

2021: Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Until 2005, there was only a policy called "Women's Policy.” When the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW) came into effect in 2005, gender mainstreaming was achieved by replacing the words "men and women" and "women's rights” with "gender equality.”


Women’s political participation

In 1999, the Local System Act guaranteed one-fourth of the seats for women in municipalities, and since 2005, fifty-percent of seats in proportional representation districts nationwide have been guaranteed for women. Since then, the number of women parliamentarians has steadily increased. As of 2019, women accounted for 39.8% of legislators in Taiwan's Central Legislative Assembly alone, which is quite high among Asian countries. I think Ms. Tsai Ing-wen is wonderful not only as a female president but also as the first person in Asia to become president without a political background, such as a second-generation politician. However, there is criticism from the public that there are too few female ministers in the current cabinet. Unfortunately, there are no signs of improvement at this time.


Demonstration before the National Father’s Day

In Taiwan, there was a rule that women would be fired on National Father’s Day if they got married. In 1987, before the National Father’s Day, demonstrations were held by people who called it discrimination against women. Then, legislation of the Gender Equality Act was proposed. Later, the word "gender equality" was replaced with "gender,” and the content of the Act was also changed.


Huaxi Street Demonstration

In 1987 and 88, around the same time as the National Father's Day demonstrations, groups supporting Taiwanese minors, forced sexual workers, and victims of human trafficking staged demonstrations. This movement gave birth to the Christian-origin Rishin Foundation, which is still active today. There is great meaning in having a demonstration in this red light district. This movement led to the basic law on prostitution, which later became the Child and Youth Sexual Exploitation Prevention Act.



Domestic Violence Prevention Act

In 1993, the Deng Ruwen Incident occurred. Despite her young age, Ms. Deng was forced into marriage by her mother and suffered domestic violence from her husband. One day, as a result of fighting back to protect herself from domestic violence, she killed her husband. It became a social problem that it was absurd to have to kill a husband to escape domestic violence. Although Ms. Deng was acquitted, she was sentenced to three years in prison and is now living a normal life. This incident led to the enactment of the DV Prevention Act.


Anti-sexual harassment movement

In 1994, four sexual harassment incidents occurred. This was turned into a documentary titled "Battle of the Roses" and received a great response in society.


Enactment of the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act

In 1996, a shocking incident occurred. Pen Wan-Ru, then-director of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) department of women’s affairs, was in session of the National Assembly. However, he disappeared after taking a taxi home and was then brutally murdered after being sexually assaulted. The perpetrator has not yet been caught.This incident led to the enactment of the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act, a law that protects victims.


Under this Act, the doctor who examined the victim or the teacher who has been consulted by the victim are obligated to report it to the police. In addition, victims must be accompanied by a social worker in the police. Moreover, out of respect for the victim's privacy, no public trial will be held, and police investigations must always proceed with consideration for the victim's feelings. There is also treatment for perpetrators, but victim protection is a top priority.


Foundation of gender equality education

In 2000, a male middle-school student was murdered in his school. Because he was bullied even in the bathroom, he had to go to the bathroom during class. One day, he went missing while going to the bathroom during class, but soon after, he was found murdered and collapsed in the bathroom. The school cleaned the restrooms, leaving no evidence or context behind the murder. His mother filed a lawsuit against the government, saying that if bullying occurs because of gender, such as "femininity" and "masculinity," laws should be enacted. This movement has become the foundation of gender equality education in Taiwan.


Same-Sex Marriage Act (Act for Implementation of J.Y. Interpretation No. 748)

This Act was enacted in 2019. In addition to the Supreme Court, Taiwan has another body, the Constitutional Court. The name of the law was coined by the Constitutional Court's interpretation that the prohibition of same-sex marriage would be unconstitutional under Section 748. The court has concluded that same-sex marriage is not unconstitutional, but there are various opinions among the public. Originally, the name "same-sex marriage law" should be fine, but conservative opponents absolutely do not want to use the word "marriage." Instead, they call it “the Partnership Act” and are at odds with those in favor of using the word "marriage." This episode shows the intensity of social conflict.


Pride Parade

In Taiwan, a large-scale LGBTQ parade with tens of thousands of people is held in the last week of October every year.


Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act


There had been a debate over this Act for eight or nine years because the police were passive about the anti-stalking law. The police continued to maintain the attitude that they do not have the resources and time to devote to small cases such as stalking. However, the stalking and murder of a female college student and the murder of a woman at a mobile phone store led to the passage of the Stalking and Harassment Prevention Act. In particular, the impact of the incident at the mobile phone store was huge.


Originally, the female victim was sexually harassed at work and reported it to the police. However, despite the fact that the perpetrator was fined under the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, he did not stop stalking. As a result, the victim was run over by a car and killed. Concerned that the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act alone would not be sufficient, the police's passive attitude was overruled, and the Stalking Prevention Act was enacted.


Five Reasons Why Taiwan's Gender Equality Movement Has Succeeded

  1. Civil society organizations are vigorously working to appeal to governments.

  2. Opportunities for young people to participate in politics are wide open.

  3. The Democratic Progressive Party is actively working on gender equality in order to leave a revolutionary political record since the revision of the Civil Code.

  4. Diversity is valued in school education, and children are learning how to react to gender issues in society.

  5. Taiwan's judiciary is properly independent and governed by the Constitution. The judiciary plays a fairly large role.


Gender equality in Taiwan is still developing

In terms of economy, there is an economic disparity between men and women, and wages are lower for women. In addition, there are very few women in the executive ranks of large companies.


As for transgender people, there is still no law that allows them to change their gender without undergoing gender-affirming surgery.


As for same-sex international marriage, same-sex marriage is not allowed in Taiwan unless the other country, like Taiwan, recognizes same-sex marriage. However, it is frustrating because there are only about 20 countries in the world that allow same-sex marriage. In addition, homosexual couples are not allowed fertility treatment or adoption. Conservative opponents speak out against the adoption of social medicine to produce children.


There is also the issue of immigration. There are many Southeast Asian immigrants in Taiwan, and many Taiwanese marry immigrants. For this reason, there are many cases of sexual harassment due to language differences, but it is difficult to seek help due to the language barrier.


Online slander about gender equality

There are many types of sexual violence, but there is no law yet regarding slander on the Internet. Globally, ethnicity and religion are often cited as targets of online slander, but in Taiwan, there is a lot of slander due to opposition to gender equality, sometimes leading to hate speech.


Recent challenges on gender equality

In Taiwan, more and more young couples are working, but only women are forced to take care of children and do household chores. Also, despite the Gender Equality Law, the employment situation is still severe. There are laws that allow vacations or leaves, but it is still difficult to take time off. In addition, due to the lack of childcare facilities and the perception that it is the woman's job to look after children, 92% of mothers with families say they want to escape from the reality they are facing.



Male-dominant thoughts on childbirth

A long-standing problem, the sex ratio of children born is 1.05 for women and men, according to the United Nations. However, in Taiwan, the ratio is 2.5, and boys tend to be preferred over girls, indicating that the ​​male predominance is still deeply rooted.


Women's History Link created by Taiwan History Tour


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The history of sexual violence and sexual crimes in Taiwan was explained in an easy-to-understand manner, and it was a very fruitful session. Attorney Guo also gave a lecture on the theme of stalking at the study session held on August 2nd.


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