Fri, Nov 09, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan failing on gender equality

By Chiang Sheng 江盛

It is most unfortunate that these forces running counter to overall gender equality and prevailing international trends are being included as part of the amendments being considered for the Genetic Health Act (優生保健法). These amendments to the act will require medical institutions to provide mandatory counseling, compulsory three-day reflection periods prior to getting abortions, mandatory notification of a woman’s husband, consent from parents for girls under the age of 18, as well as compulsory therapeutic counseling for minors.

What about contraception? With more than 40,000 people per square kilometer, New Taipei City’s (新北市) Yonghe District (永和) is among the most densely populated areas in the world, but the National Health Insurance system does not cover tubal ligation, contraceptive pills or contraceptive devices. The Taiwanese education system is busy looking like it cares about people’s lives and providing proper sex education, but in recent years, National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Taiwan Normal University have been picking fights with students for distributing free condoms during freshmen orientation or in dormitories.

Despite the Ministry of Education’s NT$50 billion (US$1.7 billion) five-year program to help create top international universities in Taiwan, NTU continues to lag far behind Cambridge, and it can’t even begin to compete with Cambridge when it comes to the distribution of condoms. The negligence and hypocrisy present in Taiwan’s education system are major contributors when it comes to minors committing suicide because of unwanted pregnancies.

Last month, a UN group of independent experts urged countries to eliminate laws classifying adultery as a criminal offense, and said that criminalizing sexual relations between consenting adults violates their right to privacy. This is of direct relevance to Taiwan. Taiwan is fraught with the unseemly tradition of trying to catch adulterers in the act and newspapers are inundated with such stories. Businesses specializing in catching adulterers are thriving and their ads can be seen all over the place. The government needs to recognize how dire the situation is and step up to help its people.

Chiang Sheng is an attending physician in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mackay Memorial Hospital.

Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat

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