Home / Local News
Mon, Jan 24, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Women at mercy of employers

GENDER DISCRIMINATION While two recent incidents have revealed how little support is available in society for victims of sexual harassment, a bill providing for concrete measures remains pending in the legislature after 10 years

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

"This has a lot to do with media overexposure," says Lai Yu-mei (賴友梅), director of research and development at the foundation. "To avoid unnecessary harassment and to preserve privacy, victims often have to disguise themselves. We should have more compassion and respect for those women who have the courage to come out."

how to define

sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is rude, demeaning and unwelcome expressions or behavior, says Frank Huang (黃富源), a criminologist and professor at the Central Police University (中央警察大學). It is usually ultimately about the abuse of power.

The most recognized forms of sexual harassment, Huang says, include direct sexual advances or propositions -- including higher-ranked employees asking for sexual favors; creating a hostile workplace environment for women by using sexist jokes, remarks, or pinning up sexually explicit or pornographic photos; and intimidating or excluding women employees in such a way as to jeopardize their employment status.

"The proposed bill which is still awaiting passage by the legislature, however, is in itself incomplete as it covers only the direct forms of sexual harassment and hostility in the workplace," Huang says.

According to a survey conducted in 1999 by the Taipei Association of Wage-Earners (台北上班族協會), about 48 percent of women questioned have experienced sexual harassment.

A 1995 study conducted by Kaohsiung Medical College (高雄醫學院) indicated that 43 percent of nurses had experienced sexual harassment, with 53 percent of the offenders being doctors and 27 percent being patients.

Other studies have also found that harassment is more commonly found in male-dominated workplaces where the majority of women earn low wages and the management is predominantly male.

However, sexual harassment does not happen only to women.

"It can happen to anyone," Huang says. "What it means is behavior or expressions, whether directed at a man or woman, which are recognized by contemporary, normal standards as unwelcome."

Prevention measures and legal remedies

Since current laws do not hold employers responsible for protecting employees from harassment by supervisors, coworkers or non-employees, victims are forced to take the initiative in any action against sexual harassment.

"Victims should bear in mind that tolerance does not make things better and hesitation to seek help only makes things worse," Huang says. "If the harassment is not too severe or violent, directly confronting the harasser may be useful. Otherwise, witnesses or victims are encouraged to report the behavior immediately because privacy only protects harassers, but visibility undermines them."

Before a claim is filed, either with the employer or the union, Huang says, it is necessary to have full documentation of the incident because this can be used as evidence in a complaint or in court.

If the complaint is filed with an outside agency, it is advisable to consult an attorney or women's interest groups, Huang says.

Currently, if a case is judged as employment discrimination by the local government's Employment Discrimination Review Committee, the employer can be fined up to NT$30,000.

The civil lawsuit awards the victim of sexual harassment compensations ranging from NT$100,000 to NT$400,000.

This story has been viewed 3620 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top