After a new wave of the #MeToo movement hit Taiwan in June, Taiwan decides to amend three sexual harassment laws in a special session of the legislature.
The agreed changes include tougher punishments and extended grace periods for victims to come forward and notify the police of the incident. The modifications are an effort to address the problems brought up by recent allegations of sexual assault in Taiwan.
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TAIWAN’S RECENT #METOO WAVE
Taiwan’s recent #MeToo movement got reignited when Chen Chien-jou working for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party accused film director Hsueh Chao-hui of groping her and making unwanted sexual advances. Chien-jou reported that she took inspiration from a Netflix show called ‘Wave Makers‘.
This incident triggered the revelation of more accusations of sexual harassment from other Taiwanese women against politicians, before spreading to other areas including entertainment, music, and schools.
It was then realized that many people have been afraid to press charges of sexual harassment because they were worried about putting themselves on the firing line. Therefore questions were raised about the credibility of the Taiwanese judicial system. As a result, the laws were amended.
DECODING TAIWAN’S NEW SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWS
Taiwan has three laws in relation to the issue of sexual harassment which includes one for the workplace, in relation to the education sector, and one that covers all spheres, falling outside the two mentioned domains.
Among the recent amendments to the workplace law, the term “sexual harassment with an abuse of power” was added. The term refers to those in positions of more power or authority who engage in sexual misbehavior or any opportunistic behaviors, during the period of employment, job-seeking, or job performance supervision.
In cases of sexual harassment with an “abuse of power,” the court may impose punitive damages that might range from 1 to 3 times the compensatory damages, depending on how serious the violation was. Companies that are aware of sexual harassment allegations but fail to take necessary action might face fines ranging from NT$20,000 to NT$1 million under the new law.
The law is also an initiative to promote gender equality, keeping in mind the rights and interests of the victims of sexual harassment in an educational setup. As per the amendments, it is unlawful for educators to engage in intimate relationships with students younger than 18. However, such relations are accepted if the student is older than 18- the intimacy must be consensual and not an “abuse of power”.
Moreover, a school is not permitted to use its power to penalize sexual harassment victims who come forward or anybody who helps them come forward or demands an investigation.
The maximum sentence under Taiwan’s Sexual Harassment Prevention Act for sexual harassment has been increased to three years in prison and a maximum fine of 600,000 New Taiwan dollars ($19,000).
TAIWAN’S ATTEMPT TO DRAW THE LINE
When it comes to incidents of sexual abuse, it is often difficult to draw the line of what actually is abuse and often it is dressed in the form of love. Nevertheless, the Taiwanese government has attempted to distinguish harassment.
Sexual harassment requires intent to be considered a crime. Often, perpetrators argue that their actions were merely a joke or an act of friendship. Furthermore, the equation shared between the offender and victim is unequal so the victims are less likely to report. Therefore, the new amendment clarifies that a victim of sexual harassment has a year to report the incident. Articles 224 and 237 of the Code of Criminal Procedure emphasize the punishments.