Thu, Mar 07, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Women's groups blame inaction for spread of cameras


Lack of action by the police is one of the main reasons why the use of hidden cameras to capture women's private parts on film has been allowed to proliferate, women's organizations said yesterday.

According to the Modern Women's Foundation, the fear of being caught on film by a hidden camera was a top concern for women polled in 1998 and 2000.

But police appear to be doing little about the issue. According to numbers from the National Police Administration, there was just one arrest in 1999 for improperly using a hidden camera. In 2000, there were 11 cases, followed by 14 cases last year.

According to the Ministry of Justice, no lawsuit has ever been filed over hidden cameras.

"Taiwan's authorities ignored the issue until the Chu Mei-feng (璩美鳳) sex-VCD scandal," said Yao Shu-wen (姚淑文), vice chief executive of the group, referring to the video in which a politician was secretly taped making love to a married businessman.

Yao said several photographs and videos of women at subway stations that were distributed over the Internet have also prompted police to pay more attention to the issue.

Liu Ming-hsi (劉明熙), an official at the telecommunications department under the National Police Administration, said catching hidden-camera snoops is a tough job. The law doesn't provide police the right to inspect public places where a snoop might hide a camera, Liu told legislators on Tuesday.

A handbook published by the National Police isn't much help to women. It advises women to avoid public buildings such as restaurants, shopping malls and hotels -- places that have in the past been targeted by snoops.

DPP lawmaker Pang Chien-kuo (龐建國) said police should crack down on hidden cameras instead of telling women to avoid public places. Today, there is just one article of the Criminal Code that deals with violations of personal privacy -- Article 315.

The article -- which prohibits the taping of private dialogue and conduct without the consent of the individual -- was passed by the legislature in 1999. Violators can receive a prison term of up to five years or a NT$50,000 fine for circulating illegally taped material.

Yu Li-chen (余麗貞), a prosecutor from the Ministry of Justice, took issue with those who say the punishment is too light, noting that five years in jail is the equivalent to time served for robbery. "Five years in prison is actually a heavy punishment," Yu said.

Wang Ru-shiuan (王如玄), a lawyer and board member of the Modern Women's Foundation, said current regulations were insufficient to tackle hidden cameras.

Wang noted that the images of school girls taken at subway stations were shot in public areas -- not in bathrooms or hotel rooms where one would expect privacy.

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