Mon, Nov 29, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Women's issues neglected in legislative campaigning


While the pan-green and pan-blue camps are again busy trading insults during the legislative election campaign, the space for debate on public policy -- especially minority issues -- has been neglected.

Many legislators and candidates, especially those from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), have said in private that this election was one without any real public policy appeal, but rather a battle of vote allocation.

Indeed, the issues highlighted by the leaders from the both camps mostly stem from shallow political squabbles, be it "soft coup" allegations or party emblems, are all issues public care little about, especially voters in the south.

So in an election where the party leaders are only interested in creating disputes, there is a serious lack of public policy debate, not to mention policies regarding the interests of minority groups.

But while the parties are not particularly elaborate on issues such as women's rights in the run-up to the election, the women's groups have tried to raise the public awareness last week by publishing a list of 30 candidates who have contributed to bills related to women's rights.

The list includes legislative candidates from both camps, both male and female. The recommended candidates range from DPP legislator Lai Ching-te (賴清德) to People First Party (PFP) legislator Shen Chih-hwei (沈智慧).

"When we made the recommendations, we did not consider a candidate's party affiliation. We focused only on their efforts on the gender-related issues and bills," said Tseng Chao-yuan (曾昭媛), the secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation. "We did not take their record on other issues into consideration."

The Awakening Foundation was in charge of integrating opinions and recommendations from different women's groups and generating the final list. Yet only 24 out of the 225 incumbent legislators were chosen and the remaining six have yet to be elected.

Tseng said that since only 13 percent of incumbents openly promoted women's issues, the majority of the incumbents had not put much effort into the bills related to women's rights or gender issues. The foundation was also dissatisfied with the number of female legislative candidates running in the legislative election.

Tseng also pointed out that while all parties had promised that female candidates would take up at least one-third of all party nominations, every party fell far behind the goal: the DPP set aside only 20 percent for female candidates; the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) 26 percent; PFP 23 percent; and the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) only 10 percent.

But the foundation also reckoned that number of female candidates had grown since to the last election, and DPP and KMT made some attempts to fulfill the goal of female candidates making up one-third in their legislator-at-large list.

Huang Chang-ling (黃長玲), chairwoman of Awakening Foundation and an associate professor of political science at National Taiwan University, said that in the fifth legislature, the most important bills to have passed are Gender Equality Labor Law (兩性工作平等法) in 2002, and the Gender Equality Education Law (性別平等教育法) this year, and an equally important amendment to the Civil Code which now finally allows married women to manage their personal property and assets independently.

"Basically, we still approve of the fifth legislature's performances on gender issues. Gender issues are enjoying a steady progress in Taiwan, although we hope the progress can accelerate," Huang said.

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