Once upon a time, when a woman was sexually harassed, she would feel so ashamed that she would bring her life to an end. Chastity was more important than life for women. Then the emperor would give her family some money to honor her fearless effort to defend her chastity.
Then, as the number of women who killed themselves because they felt dishonored rose, one wise emperor told his people not kill themselves for such a reason. Love your life, he said, and he stopped giving out money to honor such acts.
The sentiment that women should honor and defend their chastity until death stayed in the Criminal Code of the Republic of China until 1999, when the law was changed under pressure from feminists and women’s groups.
In 1935, the Criminal Code on rape read: Against women, offenders using force ... so that she could not resist (致使不能抗拒).
The old rape law was classified as a “crime against public decency” (妨害風化).
In 1999, the rape law was altered to read: Against men or women, offenders using force, threat, hypnosis or other measures against the victim’s will to have sexual intercourse.
The new rape law was classified as a “crime against sexual autonomy” (妨害性自主罪).
So what is the difference between “chastity” and “sexual autonomy”?
Chastity was a concept created by society when women were property owned by men — either their fathers, husbands or sons — where people would say an act made them feel uncomfortable. It was a standard exclusively reserved for women, not for men. People from different cultural backgrounds felt very differently about this concept at different times.
Sexual autonomy is enjoyed by the individual, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or sexual practices, and it should be protected by the Constitution and the Criminal Code. A rapist should be punished because sexual assault violates the victim’s sexual autonomy, not because it hurts the feelings of the community.
Chastity-based rape law tends to focus on the presence of force and the degree of counter-force a woman exercises to defend her chastity. The degree of violence the rapist uses to break the woman’s will is of importance. The old Criminal Code reads: It shall be so bad that she could not resist any longer. If this is the case, then the assault would be described as a rape, otherwise it is assumed to be normal sexual conduct.
Sexual autonomy-based rape law focuses on “consent.” Where there is a lack of consent, regardless of whether this was through the use of drugs, threats or force, there is rape.
So how about today?
Last year, after a number of cases in which people accused of rape and sexual assault escaped punishment, the White Rose Movement was established by a group of concerned citizens — some of whom were victims of rape and others who care for the sexual well-being and health of young girls. They demanded that judges look into the eyes of victims (regardless of whether they are two years old or 16 years old) and look again more carefully at the law to find a more just decision.
However, the Ministry of Justice and the Executive Yuan have seen fit to act in the wrong way, so wrong that I am very angry. They came up with a proposal to reform the rape law. One of the major revisions was the removal of a phrase that an offense was committed “against the will of the victim” (違反意願).
It is just a facile solution to say let’s take out the “violating the will of the victim” phrase, so that next time our judges will not conclude that prosecutors failed to prove that the alleged offenses were committed against the will of the victim. So are we heading back to the good old days of “presence of force?”
It is a facile solution to just want to change the law.
It is a facile solution to raise sentencing periods for those found guilty.
It is still a facile solution to just raise the age limit for statutory rape.
What judges, the minister of justice and many other law professors do not fully comprehend is that from defending chastity to advancing sexual autonomy, Taiwanese women have come a long way. However, judges, the minister of justice and the Cabinet have not caught up.
Or is it that they don’t want to speak up about their deepest fear — that anyone could easily be a rapist? Yes, the absence of consent is rape.
Through the so-called democratic process, the rape law can easily be changed; a phrase dropped here, or a few more years to a prison term added there. The legal culture will never change until we come forward and change the perception that just because a female does not scream herself to death or fight for her chastity until death, she has agreed to engage in a sexual act.
If we want to walk away from this chastity-based thinking and move to sexual autonomy, we have to do more than just delete a phrase in the Criminal Code. We need to talk about our sexual culture in an honest way and discuss gender-related stereotypes.
Chen Yi-chien is an associate professor and director of the Gender Graduate School at Shih Hsin University.
US-China relations are built on a series of fabrications about Taiwan. In fact, one of the major reasons the US-China relationship is so contentious right now is that Chinese belligerence is exposing these carefully constructed fictions to common sense. Readers know the story. In the 1970s and 1980s, American officials said what they needed to make common cause with Beijing vis-a-vis the Soviet Union. Diplomats couldn’t talk about Taiwan as a “country” — let alone an independent one — which it so clearly is. They enshrined in US policy that “all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there
International travelers arriving in Taiwan on long-haul flights have since Tuesday been required to take a polymerase chain reaction test for COVID-19 upon landing, and wait for the results before finishing airport entry procedures. The policy was implemented after several airport workers were infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, leading to local transmissions and cluster infections over the past two weeks. The Central Epidemic Command Center on Friday reported that 139 people among 1,837 inbound passengers, or about 7.6 percent, tested positive after landing in the first four days, exceeding the center’s expectation. The peak of returnees before the Lunar New Year
The start of any new year is always a good time for introspection, reflection and resolutions. This advice is appropriate for all. In Taiwan, it should clearly be heeded by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which continues to have its share of troubles. The KMT has had so many difficulties in the past decade that it almost seems to revel in them with the celebration of each new year. What then could be done? The KMT can begin by examining the present and slowly tracing backward to see how the dots are connected. Whether the party admits it or not, it
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is floundering. Over its past two years of politicking, it has racked up a staggering number of losses on votes that it initiated. Two of its four recall drives failed, and each of the two that succeeded only served to add another Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seat to the legislature. This is not to mention the slap in the face that was last month’s referendum, with all four of its proposals soundly defeated, despite the money and effort that the party put into them. For all of its talk about upholding the duties of the opposition