Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Gender equality demands reform

By Liu Yu-shiu劉毓秀

In accordance with the Exec-utive Yuan's adjustment plan, some women's groups have proposed establishing a special gender-equality institution as a ministerial-level committee of the central government.

Soon after this proposal was made, the Legislative Yuan passed a law to limit the Executive Yuan to only four ministerial-level commissions. The gender-equality institution was then placed under the umbrella of the Executive Yuan's Commission of National Development and Technology.

I found these organizational issues to be somewhat inappropriate, and they might possibly have an adverse effect on women and society in general.

The background to this incident is related to the direction and value placed on gender equality. Do these issues pertain to society as a whole or just to a minority group?

Are they related to other aspects of domestic affairs, such as family and work, or do they simply exist by themselves? If both answers are for the latter, which is that gender-equality issues only matter to minority groups, a special institution of gender equality should be created as an independent department or committee.

Otherwise, it should not be established independently.

The legislative bill submitted by the Executive Yuan apparently followed the first track -- taking gender-related issues as an independent matter. If put into practice, this special institution will consist of a group of experts, scholars and administrative personnel to determine policy in an isolated setting.

Not being a high-level institution and due to its independent nature, the special government gender-quality division will not have a great influence in society.

Therefore, when stronger and more progressive policy decisions are made (commonly brought up by these gender specialists), they will not be easily adopted in the Cabinet; thus, in the meantime, the Executive Yuan will likely bear the sin of "oppressing progressive issues." If adopted, these progressive issues may not be thoroughly implemented due to the current immature situation without sufficient supplementary measures to match new gender-related policies.

The current design is predicted as a lose-lose situation for both the gender-equality institution and the Executive Yuan, and it will exacerbate confrontations between the gender-equality camp and others, such as the government and the whole society.

Closer ministerial interaction is crucial in gender-related affairs because most gender issues in-trinsically have trans-ministerial elements and require the existence of a cross-ministerial platform.

Therefore, such integration is the key to whether the gender-related policies and implementations are a success or a failure. Based on the importance of integration, I think the best solution is to reform the current function of the Cabinet's ad hoc committee for the promotion of women's rights.

The committee consists of the premier as the convener and government officials, experts and academics as members, and is in charge of making decisions about women's rights at the policy level.

The obstacle this committee is facing is a shortage of subordinate units, so that despite it being a relatively high-level government body, the committee lacks the ability to implement policy, or even communicate with other government departments on the same level.

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