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Tue, Nov 30, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Peng's ideas still a beacon for women

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of social movement organizations light candles to join a parade called the "Fire Lights Up the Road of Darkness for Women's Rights" to commemorate the death of Peng Wan-ru, who was raped and murdered three years ago.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG

Three years ago today, Peng Wan-ru, then the director of the DPP's women's affairs department, disapppeared. She was last seen getting into a taxi after a meeting the night before a DPP party convention in Kaohsiung. Her body was found three days later outside an abandoned warehouse in Kaohsiung County, with more than 30 stab wounds. The murder sparked a public outcry against the widely perceived lack of protection given to women in Taiwan, galvanized the women's rights movement across the island, and led the legislature to establish a more sound legal base for the protection of women's rights

One of the goals Peng Wan-ru devoted herself to was increasing women's political participation -- specifically, she promoted the idea of a public representation quota mandating that one-fourth of elected seats be reserved for women.

The proposal, ironically, was passed at the DPP's national congress on Nov. 30, 1996, the day Peng was believed to have been murdered.

Three years have passed, and some are asking whether Taiwan has seen any progress in women's participation in politics.

"The situation has become a lot better than before," said Ingrid Liao (1戇?^), current director of the DPP's women's development department. Since the passage of the one-fourth seat quota article in the DPP's party program, Liao said there has been a great shift in the party's nomination procedure.

"The internal structure of our party has changed," she said.

In 1997, the year after Peng's death, the DPP's internal elections for party officials, as well as the constitution of party departments, have all followed the one-fourth principle, she said.

"We are the first party to follow this principle, and we have practiced it the most thoroughly," Liao said. "In nominations for legislators-at-large, we had originally been short of women candidates, but as soon as the central committee discovered this, they immediately consulted us for more women candidates," Liao said.

Policies accelerated or enforced after Peng's death

January 1997: Sexual Assault Prevention Law passes legislature

April 1997: Women's Rights Promotion Committee established in Cabinet

June 1997: Domestic Violence Prevention Law passes legislature

1998: Education on Gender Equality Committee

established under the Ministry of Education


Many DPP women became politically active when their husbands were sent to jail after the Kaoshiung Incident in 1979. Speaking on behalf of their husbands, DPP women entered the political mainstream, running in elections and becoming lawmakers.

Liao said that more independent women eventually joined the political sphere out of concern for the community and because of an interest in public affairs.

So far, the one-fourth article has been written into the Local Autonomy Act (|a?閮謍*法) which passed the legislature in 1998, but has been blocked from being written into the Constitution.

In constitutional reform conferences at the National Assembly last year and also two months ago, the proposal to include the article failed. The present quota for women for legislative and national assembly elections, therefore, remains at one-tenth.

Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), former director of the KMT's Department of Women's Affairs and a current KMT legislator, also holds an optimistic view on women's political participation.

She said most KMT women have traditionally jumped into politics for family reasons. Most of these women, she said, came from veteran's villages, and because of the tight organization in such villages, they were usually guaranteed of being elected. As a result, however, few KMT women were ever pressured to promote gender issues.

"But now, we have more politicians who are focusing more on public policies and women's issues," she said.

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