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Wed, Jan 19, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Taiwan laws no safeguard for women

CIVIL RIGHTSA suit against a doctor at Chang Kung Hospital has revealed the inadequacies of laws to fight sexual harrassment, a women's group said

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

A civil lawsuit filed by a nurse against a doctor at Chang Gung Hospital (長庚醫院) has drawn attention to Taiwan's dearth of laws for fighting sexual harassment in the workplace, women's rights advocates said.

A woman identified only by her last name, Yang, filed the suit yesterday against anesthesiology specialist Shen Chin-hua (沈青華). But her suit invokes civil laws meant to protect people against defamation of character or injury to one's body or health, not specifically against sexual harassment.

The strategy adopted in this case reveals the legal vacuum regarding sexual harassment in the workplace, said Peng Yen-wen (彭渰雯), secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation (婦女新知基金會), a prominent women's rights group.

Since there are no current laws regarding punishment for sexual harassment, Wang Ju-hsuan (王如玄), a lawyer from the Awakening Foundation, said Yang's civil suit is the only legal recourse for the woman.

Peng said the only effective regulations on sexual harassment are included in a proposed bill -- the Law on Gender Equality in the Workplace (兩性工作平等法) -- which is still awaiting passage by the legislature.

It has been 10 years since women's groups first proposed a draft of the law.

The draft states that workplaces should set up guidelines and committees to take up charges of sexual harassment when they are made.

Peng said so far there have been only two sexual harassment lawsuits that have successfully made it through the courts. In 1998, a female court staffer sued a male colleague on the grounds of defamation, and she was granted NT$200,000 in compensation. That same year, a travel agency employee was awarded NT$100,000 in compensation on the grounds of character rights infringement.

Peng said when a workplace sexual harassment case is brought up, the company's management should react first by investigating and judging the case through a special committee charged with such responsibilities.

But such schemes are as yet unavailable in most workplaces.

"We want to heighten public awareness that sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination," she said. "And if it happens in the workplace, it is the result of employment discrimination, which forces the harassed employee to work in a hostile environment."

Both Wang and Peng said the employer in the Yang case -- Chang Kung Hospital, which is associated with the Formosa Plastics Group -- is responsible for mishandling the affair.

Wang said the hospital has admitted there have been eight sexual harassment reports already filed against Shen.

But the hospital did not punish Shen after any of these reports. Instead, it recently promoted him, Wang said.

Shen yesterday offered his resignation as head of the hospital's anesthesiology department. The hospital has accepted the doctor's resignation, but he will reportedly retain his position as a doctor at the hospital.

The foundation is filing an employment discrimination report with the local government's Employment Discrimination Review Committee (就業歧視評議委員會) in Taoyuan, where the hospital is located. If the case is judged as employment discrimination by the committee, the employer will be fined up to NT$30,000.

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