On International Women’s Day this year, the Court of the Judiciary gave a ridiculous gift to all Taiwanese women by ruling that former Taipei High Administrative Court judge Chen Hung-pin (陳鴻斌), who was convicted of sexually harassing his female assistant, is suitable for his job.
The court argued in its controversial ruling that Chen had already expressed regret by trying to introduce a potential boyfriend to the victim.
In its decisions on whether sexual harassment affects a harasser’s job suitability, the judicial system is clearly setting a double standard, as it is lenient with itself and strict with others.
In dismissing teachers convicted of harassment, the court strictly rules that teachers should never harass students, and that teachers who harass students are unsuitable for their jobs due to the abuse of power involved.
There was also a power differential between the judge and his assistant, but the court believed that the judge is still suitable for his job after harassing the assistant.
In this case, the Court of the Judiciary said that only three of the eight cited incidents of misconduct constituted sexual harassment: kissing and hugging the assistant, banning her from going out with male friends and not allowing her to leave the office by holding the door closed.
The verdict said that Chen, who had a clean record, had always been an upstanding judge, and that conditions for his disqualification did not exist. As for his three acts of misconduct, they do not disqualify him from serving as judge.
However, the court demonstrated a double standard in a similar trial involving a teacher.
The Supreme Administrative Court in 2011 issued Ruling No. 2,123, which said that the appellant, who was a high-school teacher, should be removed from the school due to sexual harassment.
As described in the verdict, a student who sat on a sofa watching a DVD was approached by the teacher, who slipped his arm around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. The student felt uncomfortable and pushed his hands away, saying that she wanted to go home. When they went to the garage together, he hugged her one more time as she got into the car.
The court said that as the teacher was the student’s “homeroom teacher,” there was a power differential between them.
He later confessed his misconduct and expressed regret, but the court ruled that as he lacked “gender respect,” he might harass other students if he were allowed to continue teaching, and therefore posed a serious threat to campus safety. As a result, the court ruled that the teacher be dismissed.
Both the teacher and the judge kissed and touched the victims inappropriately and were repentant afterward. However, the court ruled that the judge was suitable for his job, while the teacher was not. What makes the rulings more questionable is that both were rendered by presiding judge Lin Wen-chou (林文舟).
Is the standard for a judge’s suitability for his job lower than that for a high-school teacher? Or do Taiwan’s judges have a special privilege to sexually harass others?
Huang Di-ying is a lawyer.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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