Wed, Jul 04, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Patriarchy still supreme in Taiwan

By Weng Hui-chen 翁慧真

During the dragon Boat Festival holiday, the nation watched two farces on TV involving family relationships that cruelly reminded the public that Taiwan is still dominated by patriarcial hegemony. The Hsu Huai-yu (徐懷鈺) and Iruan Ergui Wu (吳憶樺) cases brought to the surface the unfair treatment that children in single parent families are subjected to in a patriarchal society.

Were it not for Iruan's uncle's insistence on keeping his dead brother's only son by his side -- a decision surely influenced by the traditional values of Taiwan's patriarcal society -- the Brazilian-Taiwanese boy might have re-turned to the environment where he spent the first five years of his life, and to his grandmother who has custody and has taken care of him his whole life.

One has to ask why must the boy live in Taiwan? As long as Iruan is granted an ROC passport and obtains permanent residency, he is Taiwanese and an offspring of the Wu family. As just a relation of Iruan, the uncle is in a worse position in the battle for custody, compared with the grandmother, who is a direct relative.

Iruan lived with his grandmother long enough to create real and lasting bonds. Now the Wu family is cruelly depriving the grandmother and Iruan of the close relationship they shared by forcing the boy to leave the only environment he has ever known. It is truly inhuman.

If children who have lost their parents can live with those who have a history of caring for them, it would make a great difference to their emotional, physical and mental growth. However, we brutally compel the kid to fit in the pattern of a patriarchal society.

During the grandmother's visit to Taiwan, intense media coverage publicized every detail of the meetings between the families. In order not to lose face, Iruan's Taiwanese relatives, who have been brainwashed by patriarchal society, had a big brawl with their countrymen bringing his grandmother to meet with them. They did not bring the boy to the first meeting with his Brazilian relatives. They also refused to let the grandmother spend time alone with the boy, instead booking a restaurant for the next meeting. Did they do that for the boy or to save face? Do they really care about Iruan's feelings?

The patriarchal nature of our society was also illustrated by the story of pop singer Hsu Huai-yu, better known as Yuki. She was forced to recall her abused childhood by a TV show that focuses on helping lonely old men find lost relatives. Yuki and her mother, who fled from domestic violence 16 years ago, are suddenly supposed take care of her grandfather, despite his abuse.

When Yuki's mother raised Yuki and her brother all alone, did her husband or her father take any responsibility? Since Taiwan's backward Civil Code (民法) stipulates that direct relations are obliged to raise family members, then why didn't the Hsu family help raise Yuki? After well-intentioned social workers and media publicized Yuki's story, all single parent families were undoubtedly hurt by having to once again relive their pain.

These cases show the unfair treatment that single parent families receive from society. Married women are disadvantaged, but it is unbelievable that women who have left marriages are still in a weak position! Regardless of whether the women in single parent families have custody of their children, 90 percent of them still live alone with their kids. It is rare that divorcees get financial support from their own families.

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