Wed, Feb 26, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Violence shatters myth of domestic bliss

Despite the many visible gains made by women in Taiwan, domestic abuse remains a stubborn problem which campaigners insist remains hidden and out of control

By Sam Sky Wild  /  Contributing reporter

Zhan Xiu-ying (湛秀英) who heads an immigrant rights group in Greater Kaohsiung, recently called on political parties to stop “seeing Chinese spouses from a political point of view … Chinese spouses are not enemies or people from an enemy country.”

The issue of foreign brides remains a contentious one and whether or not they are more likely to be abused by their partners remains largely unknown. However, women’s rights campaigners have recently unveiled a legislative drive which would widen the definition of spousal abuse to include the aggression of ex-partners as well as those not cohabiting. Currently, argue women’s rights advocates, the law does not adequately reflect — nor protect — the modern living patterns of many women.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻), the woman who has ensured that updating the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法) remains on the agenda at the Legislative Yuan, explains that domestic violence often goes unreported due to a local culture of keeping domestic affairs out of the public realm. She also argues that a widely-held misconception that “only abnormal, low-class and uneducated people are capable of beating up their wives” holds back the potential for a more honest and open discussion about widespread abuse that permeates every level of society.

“Many people say, ‘The law has no right entering a home’ and ‘what happens between a husband and his wife should start at the bottom and finish at the end of the bed,’” says Wu. “For this reason, ‘domestic violence’ is a ‘family matter’ which means any person not affiliated to the family has no right to interfere.”

INCREASING AWARENESS

Wu says that protecting the rights of women in abusive relationships calls for widespread — and deeper — government action. She urges a widening of measures to boost awareness of the issue, an increase in the mechanisms through which domestic violence can be reported and more support for victims including counseling and medical assistance. Wu remains convinced that ongoing pressure can assist in changing the culture.

“We can change the chain of factors that lead to an environment of domestic violence and prevent future cases from happening,” she says.

The reality that domestic violence compromises the lives of tens of thousands of Taiwanese women every year would appear to contradict the many strides that women have made in wider society. Currently 37 percent of the country’s women hold college degrees or higher — a figure in excess of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries’ average. Additionally, women own a third of Taiwan’s business enterprises, occupy key positions across a spectrum of professions and are active in the political arena.

However, for some commentators, including writer Shirley Chang (張林秀菊), Taiwan still operates as a male chauvinist culture.

“Women’s pay is roughly 75 percent of men,” Chang says. “In Taiwan men often think women are less capable … unfortunately women here are happy to get a job, and don’t fight for what they are entitled.”

Women’s rights groups argue that limited expectations for women are very much part of the problem, but groups, including the Garden of Hope Foundation, says that men are also often shackled by convention.

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