In its latest international human rights report, the US State Department said Taiwan “generally respected” human rights last year, but that human trafficking, abuse of foreign workers, discrimination and violence against women and government corruption persisted.
The report’s biggest criticism of Taiwan concerned violence against women.
“Rape and domestic violence remained a serious problem,” it said.
“Because victims were socially stigmatized, many did not report the crime and the MOI [Ministry of the Interior] estimated that the total number of sexual assaults was ten times the number reported to the police,” it said.
The report cited “strong social pressure not to disgrace their families” as a key reason that prevents women from reporting rape or sexual assault to the police.
Prostitution, including child prostitution, remained a problem, the report said.
“Child abuse continued to be a widespread problem ... Approximately 90 percent of abusers were parents, relatives or caregivers,” it said.
It appears that there has been a “significant increase” over the last year in the number of boys forced into prostitution, it said.
The report also cited Taiwan as a destination for trafficked persons from nearby countries.
“Trafficking in persons continued to be a problem. Taiwan is primarily a destination for Southeast Asian and PRC [People’s Republic of China] nationals trafficked into forced labor or sexual exploitation,” it said.
“Some women smuggled into Taiwan to seek illegal work were subsequently forced to work in the commercial sex industry,” it said.
In addition, the report cited “reports of women being trafficked from Taiwan for sexual exploitation purposes to Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries.”
“Taiwan authorities reported that traffickers continued to use fraudulent marriages as a method for human trafficking, in part because penalties for ‘husbands’ were lenient,” the report said.
The State Department report said that foreign spouses were targets of discrimination both inside and outside the home and said arranging marriages through brokers degraded women and treated them as property.
“Most marriages to foreign citizen spouses were arranged by brokers whose local advertisements were degrading to women,” it said.
“Brokers typically flew clients to other Southeast Asian countries where they could choose from a group of eligible women recruited by the broker. This commercialized process likened foreign spouses to property and contributed to their mistreatment,” it said.
“Social and economic marginalization contributed to an abnormally high rate of domestic violence in marriages to foreign spouses,” it said.
CORRUPTION AND JUSTICE
On the nation’s judicial system, the State Department said: “Although the authorities made efforts to eliminate corruption and to diminish political influence in the judiciary, residual problems remained.”
“During the year many political leaders publicly questioned the impartiality of judges and prosecutors involved in several high-profile and politically sensitive cases,” it said.
On the media, the report was favorable, saying Taiwan had a “vigorous and active free press.”
The report can be viewed at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/eap/119038.htm.