Wed, Nov 05, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Draft law would expand rights

COMING TOGETHER A bill that would abolish the death penalty and allow marriage between homosexuals also gives people the right to vote on legislation in referendums

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

As well as aiming to abolish the death penalty and legitimize gay marriages, a draft bill of the basic human rights law (人權基本法) seen by the Taipei Times would also give citizens the right to decide constitutional issues in referendums.

The draft, which is still being considered by the Cabinet, lays out the basic rights of the people and includes already passed measures and legislation the government has proposed.

The draft is an integrated version of the proposals drafted by the Presidential Office's human rights advisory group and the Ministry of Justice.

One of the most controversial measures is to end capital punishment.

But as it stands, the draft states only the intention to abolish executions and sets no timetable for them to be phased out.

Capital punishment could only be used on those committing the most hideous, violent crimes, according to the draft.

The draft also prohibits executions for those under the age of 18 and pregnant women.

To compensate for the abolition of the death penalty, the Cabinet has already approved draft amendments to the criminal code which would make it more difficult for death-row inmates to get parole. But it has also announced new anti-terror legislation which includes crimes punishable by death.

The draft also expands the rights of homosexuals, allowing them to get married and adopt children.

The draft also touches on the contentious issue of referendums. It stipulates that everyone should have the right to vote on public policy, legislation and constitutional issues through referendums.

The Cabinet has approved a draft referendum law that would allow the various parties, with the approval of the legislature, to call for a referendum on a wide variety of issues, including those of sovereignty. A rival bill presented by the pan-blue camp regulates referendums much more strictly.

The government should undertake to guarantee that the rights enunciated in the draft would be exercised without discrimination of any kind with regard to race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, according to the draft.

The Cabinet is expected to approve a draft amendments to the Immigration Law today which would make it easier for foreign professionals to work in Taiwan and give permanent residency to those who invest a certain amount of money in the country.

Other provisions affect the status of foreigners. For example, foreigners will be protected from deportation unless they have enjoyed due legal process. It also allows, for the first time, for foreigners to claim political asylum.

The government is working on a refugee and asylum law which would grant asylum rights to foreigners, with the exception of Chinese nationals. There is currently no provision in Taiwanese law to grant people asylum.

The draft also recognizes working women's right to receive special care before and after the childbirth and maternity leave with pay.

Legislation passed last year requires all work places to set up a nursery facility where mothers can take care of their babies and leave for parents with children under three years old, but enforcement of the law is still weak.

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