Sat, Jan 15, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Women's groups celebrate passage of harassment act

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

As the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法) passed its third reading in the Legislative Yuan yesterday, women's rights activists said the new law was a gift for Taiwanese women.

"The importance of the Sexual Harassment Act is that sexual harassment will be defined as a crime from now on," said Gau Fehng-shian (高鳳仙), a judge with the Taiwan High Court and a member of the Alliance to Campaign for the Three Prevention Acts, a women's rights advocacy group.

The "three prevention acts" are the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act (性侵害防治法) and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法).

In a press conference held by the alliance and female lawmakers yesterday, Gau said that the passage of the law would force the public to treat sexual harassment more seriously and would deter sex offenders.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), one of the female legislators who has been aggressively pushing for the act over the years, shared Gau's pride about its passage.

"Female legislators from all parties have been putting enormous effort into pushing for the passage of the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act in the Legislative Yuan. I am very proud of our cooperation, and I believe the passage of the act is a big move for women in Taiwan," Hsiao said.

Echoing Hsiao's remark, People First Party Legislator Chin Huei-chu (秦慧珠) also applauded the joint efforts by female lawmakers in assisting with the act. She also appealed for advocates in the alliance to keep lobbying to have the other two acts amended.

"The amendments to the Sexual Abuse Prevention Act and Domestic Violence Prevention Act are still pending. If the other two laws are amended, it will be extremely good news for all women," Chin added.

Gau explained that the difference between the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act and the other two laws is that the sexual prevention act stipulates dual responsibility for offenders and the parties in charge of the premises in which a crime takes place.

"If sexual harassment happens in the MRT, for example, not only will the offender be punished, but the MRT administration will have to share responsibility and come up with proper solutions, such as posting offenders' pictures in all stations as a warning to the public," Gau said.

Under the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, actions including molesting, kissing by force, bribing for sexual services, or intimidating people for sexual purposes in a public place will all be regarded as sexual harassment.

According to the act, public places include areas such as parks, subways, bus stations, airports, restaurants, hospitals and temples.

Victims of sexual harassment that occurs in schools or at the workplace are protected by the Gender Equality in Employment Law (兩性工作平等法) and the Gender Equality in Education Law (性別平等教育法), and are excluded from the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act.

The act also asks the government at every level to establish arbitration systems which might provide a more flexible way for victims to report a crime without having to face the offender in court.

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