Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Nation stumbles in rights review

NOT MEASURING UP:The expert review of Taiwan’s progress at fulfilling the goals of a UN convention targeting discrimination against women spotted many concerns

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The committee reviewing Taiwan’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) yesterday urged the nation to establish an independent national human rights institution in accordance with the Paris Principles, adding that the nation must recognize the existence and basic human rights of non-heterosexual couples.

Taiwan, though not a member of the UN, signed the CEDAW in 2007. Two years later, the government invited three experts to review its first CEDAW report.

In 2012, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration promulgated the CEDAW Enforcement Act (消除對婦女一切形式歧視公約施行法) and produced its second status report last year.

The second report was reviewed by five experts from South Korea, the US, Philippines, Malaysia and Kenya from Monday to Wednesday, with results presented at a press conference yesterday. In addition to government officials, representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign embassies in Taiwan also attended the presentation.

Minister Without Portfolio Joyce Feng (馮燕) said that the experts met with more than 100 NGO representatives and about 220 from the government for the review. Review committee chairperson Heisoo Shin — a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights — said the CEDAW review committee listed 35 concerns and recommendations this year.

Shin said that the nationwide establishment of human rights was a recommendation made after the review of the first CEDAW report, but has yet to be realized.

“It is very important for people to bring their complaints and policy recommendations [to human rights institutions],” she said. “We know the process [of establishment] is ongoing, but an institution should be established as soon as possible. I hope there is a time frame for that.”

Shin said the committee was impressed by the more than 33,000 laws, regulations and measures that have been reviewed in the past two years in an effort to repeal discriminatory provisions. However, the nation still lacks a comprehensive law on gender equality, Shin said.

The committee also addressed family diversity. Committee member Violet Tsisiga Awori — a UN CEDAW committee member — said that the nation recognizes only heterosexual marriages, not same-sex unions or cohabiting partnerships.

“There should be legal recognition of familial diversity,” Awori said. “There are a lot of benefits for registered married heterosexual couples, but there are a lot of unions in which you have cohabiting couples or same-sex couples. We feel that something should be done in this area.”

Awori added that the nation lacks statistical data on unregistered unions.

“You need to know the number of cohabiting couples of different types to do something about it,” she said.

Shin said that many NGOs and individuals working on issues related to non-heterosexual couples came forward and said that they have faced tremendous discrimination.

She said there should be legal — and substantial ways — to recognize and protect their rights, adding that it does not mean that the laws should be changed overnight.

Denise Scotto, vice president and New York representative of the International Federation of Women in Legal Affairs, said that though Taiwan is amending its Human Trafficking Prevention Act (人口販運防制法), the amendment must be revised in accordance with international human rights laws. While international treaties also address human trafficking, she said CEDAW is the only mechanism that actually holds governments accountable by providing information in this matter.

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