To mark the 15th anniversary of the passage of the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法), a legislator and civic groups yesterday called on the government to work harder to achieve gender equality in schools.
They spoke at a news conference in Taipei called to raise gender awareness among students and promote the protection of the rights of young people.
This year is an important one for Taiwan, as it marks the legalization of same-sex marriage, the 15th anniversary of the act and the planned introduction of a new 12-year national education curriculum in August, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) said.
Photo: Wu Po-hsuan, Taipei Times
Despite those achievements, about 7 million Taiwanese in November last year voted for a referendum that called for a ban on same-sex-related education in elementary and junior-high schools, Yu said.
“The passage of that referendum has dealt a major blow to long-time advocates of gender equality education and has subjected children with different gender traits or sexual orientation to more pressure and difficulties,” Yu said.
National Federation of Teachers’ Unions vice secretary-general Lee Ya-ching (李雅菁) said that people should not forget about the incident that prompted the 2004 passage of the act: the April 10, 2000, death of Yeh Yung-chih (葉永鋕), a student at Gaoshu Junior High School in Pingtung County’s Gaoshu Township (高樹) whose body was found on the floor in a bathroom at his school.
Yeh had allegedly been bullied at school because of his effeminate manner, although in 2006 the Taiwan High Court’s Kaohsiung branch, in sentencing the school’s principal and two school officials to short prison sentences for “neglecting the degree of care required by their occupation,” found that his death had been the result of the 15-year-old slipping and falling in his hurry to return to class.
The act says it is to “promote substantive gender equality, eliminate gender discrimination, uphold human dignity, and improve and establish education resources and an environment of gender equality” and it requires schools to provide a gender equitable learning environment, and give respect and due consideration to students, regardless of their gender, gender disposition, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“However, the reality is that public opinion remains hostile toward teachers who try to implement gender equality education,” Lee said. “Some have been sued ... or have had their words taken out of context.”
An activist who asked to be identified only as Vivian told the news conference that the government needs to employ more teachers with awareness of gender issues.
Such teachers would be able to provide guidance and emotional support to students who are being bullied over their gender identity, Vivian said.
The Ministry of Education should establish a special fund to explore how to better include diverse family structures and same-sex topics in textbooks and to stock more gender-friendly books in school libraries, she said.
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