Taiwan has no one but itself to blame for its poor record on human sex and labor trafficking, although fortunately this year it was upgraded to the top-tier rank of countries on the US State Department’s annual review.
Despite “significant improvements in preventing modern slavery,” Taiwan still faces accusations by the US government that “some local officials took bribes to turn a blind eye to trafficking and some legislators attempted to influence local Bureau of Labor Affairs’ mediation sessions between employers and migrant workers to the employer’s favor,” the report said.
If the findings are true, it would show that, ironically, government officials may actually be one of the nation’s biggest obstacles to fulfilling its anti-labor trafficking commitments.
Criminal investigations should be immediately launched to identify and charge those officials and legislators who are breaking the law, to clear Taiwan’s name.
However, no one should be surprised to find that some local labor authorities are often negligent, if not criminal, particularly when it comes to labor protections for domestic service workers and caregivers.
It has been a common practice for many years for wealthy families to take advantage of legal loopholes to illegally hire foreign caregivers to work as domestic helpers.
Until now, however, only English teacher Ruby Hsu (徐薇) has been fined for such violations. She received a NT$30,000 fine last week after labor authorities in Taipei found she had abused her foreign caregiver, who was supposed to be taking care of her sick mother-in-law, by forcing her to do housework.
Many feel that Hsu deserves such a fine, but wonder how it is fair when so many others go unpunished.
Labor authorities encourage people to turn in offending neighbors. However, when authorities approve such hiring, shouldn’t they be responsible for preventing abuses of foreign caregivers?
The Council of Labor Affairs’ policies regarding foreign caregivers and workers should be overhauled immediately.
In the area of sex trafficking, Taiwan has had a hard time prosecuting child prostitution cases from outside its borders because the nation is barred from participating in many international organizations and faces difficulties in expanding its diplomatic ties with allies. This problem was mentioned in the US report.
However, that shouldn’t be used as an excuse, especially when there is a legal framework for the nation’s law enforcement to track down offenders.
Among the nearly 100 child sex offenders arrested in six Asian countries between 2007 and 2008, statistics on the International Campaign to End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism Taiwan’s Web Site showed only one Taiwanese man was suspected of engaging in child sex tourism, in 2007.
That figure seems encouraging for Taiwan, although it could simply mean many offenders go undiscovered. To some extent, it also explains why Taiwanese authorities have brought no charges against any such offender since 2006. Though that doesn’t mean the US government’s concerns are groundless, Taiwan can’t fight child sex tourism alone.