Sat, May 08, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Poll: Majority favors new sex harassment measures

By Cody Yiu  /  STAFF REPORTER

At a press conference at the Legislative Yuan yesterday held by Legislator Chou Ching-yu, actors perform a skit aimed at drawing attention to the problem of sexual harassment.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

According to two social service groups, 91 percent of Taiwanese people support legislation that covers instances of sexual harassment such as groping and giving unwanted kisses. Legislators and government officials, meanwhile, disagreed over who should be responsible for investigating sexual harassment cases.

The survey of 1,093 adults across the country was sponsored by the all-female Pei-An Rotary Club in Taipei (北安扶輪社) and the Sexual Violence Prevention Alliance (性暴力防制聯盟).

Members of the two groups are among activists who are pushing for the passing of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill (性騷擾防治法).

Judge Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙) of the Taiwan High Court said that the bill contains a number of useful provisions.

"If this bill is passed, legal definitions of sexual harassment and unwelcome groping will be established. Further, comprehensive resources will be made available to victims and a penal code for offenders will be put in place," Gau said at a public forum yesterday at the Legislative Yuan.

Earlier this week, a new draft of the bill was introduced by a number of female legislators from various political parties. The legislators included Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chou Ching-yu (周清玉), People First Party Legislator Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsiu-yen (盧秀燕).

According to the draft, the Ministry of Interior would set up a sexual harassment committee to conduct mediation between victims and offenders in cases of sexual harassment as well as to provide healthcare resources for victims.

Remarking on the possibility of a setting up a specialized unit to investigate cases of sexual harassment, Lin Tsyr-ling (林慈玲), executive secretary of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Committee of the ministry, said that the plan would be rather infeasible.

"Our committee's staff has been working on sex-related offenses for a long time and experience tells us that offenders simply do not admit to their offenses, so conducting mediations would be problematic. Besides, the ministry will be short-staffed if every sexual harassment case needs to be investigated personally," Lin said.

Lin said that no other developed countries had put authority for such an investigative unit directly under a government body responsible for social policies, as sexual harassment cases may involve legal, labor, academic or other issues.

In 1999, the Modern Women's Foundation (現代婦女基金會) drafted a version of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill, which was revised by the ministry. The bill was sent to the Cabinet for review in 2002, coinciding with the passage of the Gender Equality Labor Law (兩性工作平等法).

The Executive Yuan decided to dismiss the Sexual Harassment Prevention Bill because the draft did not define the venues in which offenses covered under the bill might take place, as was the Gender Equality Labor Law, which includes regulations pertaining to workplace sexual harassment.

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