Fri, Jan 09, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Single fathers to qualify for government assistance

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Single fathers will soon be eligible for the same welfare rights as single mothers after the Legislative Yuan’s Internal Administration Committee yesterday unanimously passed amendments to a law originally aimed at helping single mothers.

The Act on Assisting Families of Women in Difficult Circumstances (特殊境遇婦女家庭扶助條例), which was first passed in 2000, aimed to help women living in poverty in the case of the death of a husband, divorce, domestic violence or children born out of wedlock.

However, the Internal Administration Committee yesterday passed amendments to the law, removing the word “women” from the title and all clauses, turning the law into the “Act on Assisting Families in Difficult Circumstances” (特殊境遇家庭扶助條例) to include all low-income families who find themselves in difficult circumstances.

“I suggested removing the word ‘women’ from the law because women are not the only ones who face difficulties,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池), who first proposed the changes, told the committee.

“Around 45 percent of single-parent families are actually single-father families, and there are also male victims of domestic violence. Hence, I believe my proposal would make the law a better tool to take care of all families with difficulties,” Lin said.

Vice Minister of the Interior Lin Join-sane (林中森), who attended the meeting on behalf of the ministry, supported Lin Hung-chih’s proposal.

Lin Join-sane said that the change was appropriate, as the ministry had seen a rise in the number of male victims in domestic violence cases.

“In 2007, there were 3,304 reported cases [of male domestic violence victims], accounting for 8.2 percent of all domestic violence victims, while the number was 3,323 last year, or 8.3 percent of all victims,” he said.

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), who used to oppose such changes as a long-time women’s rights activist before becoming a legislator, also supported the amendment.

“In our society, a man’s status is higher than that of a woman, which forces women into a less favorable position under certain circumstances. That’s why the law was first adopted,” Huang told the Taipei Times.

“The injustice still remains today, but men’s role in the family has changed over the years,” Huang said. “I think this revision is acceptable, especially when we’re trapped in such a serious economic recession.”

On the other hand, while Taiwan Women’s Link secretary-general Lin Lu-hung (林綠紅) also called the revision acceptable, she still voiced some concern.

“We women have no problem with sharing social welfare resources with single fathers in need, but the government should still pay special attention to problems that women alone face,” Lin Lu-hung said via telephone.

For example, it may be more difficult for single mothers to work while pregnant, she said.

“Budgets for single mothers and single fathers’ welfare should be independent of each other, so that single fathers won’t take away too many resources from single mothers,” Lin Lu-hung said.

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