Sat, Mar 09, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Cabinet under fire on Women's Day

WOMEN'S RIGHTS ISSUE Though the government was praised for enacting the gender equality law, many say it can't even abide by its own legislation

By Tsai Ting-I  /  STAFF REPORTER

Coinciding with Women's Day and the enactment of the Gender Equality Labor Law, DPP legislator Chiu Chang yesterday presented statistics on discrimination against women in state-owned enterprises, accusing the corporations of being the biggest discriminators in Taiwan.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Premier Yu Shyi-kun was forced to admit yesterday that the government faced an impossible task to enforce within government departments the Gender Equality Labor Law (兩性工作平等法), which it introduced. The law became effective yesterday, on International Women's Day. Opposition legislators accused the Cabinet of not taking its own legislation seriously.

"Land prices are very high in this district. It's very tough for government departments to offer those extra facilities in accordance with regulations," the premier said, responding in the Legislative Yuan to questions as to why the government had failed to provide such facilities as child-care and nursing rooms in the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan.

To promote gender equality, the law requires all workplaces to set up a nursery facility, a room where nursing mothers can breastfeed their babies and time for female employees to feed their infants during work hours. The law also gives women the right to one day of leave a month for discomfort associated with their menstrual cycles.

The Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan said yesterday that they hadn't been able to find space for children's facilities and breast-feeding rooms.

"Before asking other people to implement the law, government departments should ensure that they have implemented it themselves," DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-chin (葉宜津) said in the Legislative Yuan yesterday.

The premier admitted that it had simply proven impossible to find space to set up the mandated facilities in the administrative district within such a short period.

The premier added that the Cabinet would try to cooperate with local nursery schools instead of constructing childcare facilities inside government offices

Speaking to the Taipei Times yesterday, KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) lamented the government's failure to practice what it has preached.

"The Executive Yuan knows what the measures are but has failed to prepare for their implementation. How can it ask business to take the matter seriously?" Chen said.

PFP Legislator Lee Yung-ping (李永萍) praised the idea, but not its execution.

"We understand the government wanted to implement the law as a gift to Taiwanese women on National Women's Day, but it has acted too hastily," Lee said.

Some private-sector employers who failed to comply with the law also complained that the timing was inappropriate.

"We are working hard to invigorate Taiwan's economy. How can we provide childcare facilities and time off for female employees to feed children?" said Day Sheng-tong (戴勝通), president of the National Association of Small and Medium-Size Enterprises (中小企業協會).

Liao Ming-chou (廖明珠), a female manager with Hua-Nan Bank, said that she would have to hire fewer women in the future.

The Female Studies Association (女學會) and Awakening Foundation (婦女新知), however, held a joint press conference to express their happiness that the law was enacted and criticized business associations' refusal to implement it.

"Business associations have tried to obstruct the law's passage in the past, and have refused to endorse the law now it is in effect. They should think about how to assist enterprises in complying with the law but they are not doing so," said Chang Chin-fen (張晉芬), president of the Female Studies Association.

Also see story:

Yu thanks women, but some not impressed

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