Heated debate broke out on Thursday at a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, as opposing sides discussed the Ministry of Education’s amendment of enforcement rules for a gender equality law.
The Education and Culture Committee held the meeting regarding the ministry’s changes to Article 13 of the Enforcement Rules for Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法施行細則), which includes language governing how sex education is to be taught in schools.
On April 2, the ministry issued an executive order removing language requiring the teaching of “gay and lesbian education,” which was mandated in referendum No. 11 held on Nov. 24 last year.
Photo: Tu Chien-jung, Taipei Times
However, it replaced that language with a more broadly worded clause mandating the teaching of respect and understanding for “different genders, gender characteristics, gender temperaments, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and prevention and handling of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and sexual bullying on campus to enhance students’ gender equity consciousness.”
At the hearing, Parents’ Association representative Chen Chen-chien (陳貞瑾) said the amended language was a clear violation of the referendum result.
However, Cho Keng-yu (卓耕宇), a teacher at Kaohsiung Municipal Chung-cheng Industrial High School, called the language an improvement, saying that before the change, gay and lesbian education was often “narrowed” into simply understanding homosexuality.
The government’s position focused on refuting the charge that the ministry’s amendment contradicted the referendum result, Cho said.
Executive Yuan Gender Equality Committee member Annie Lee (李安妮) said that after last year’s referendum, the ministry collected views on the topic from a broad portion of the public.
These included two public hearings on March 12 and 14, before the ministry announced its intended changes to Article 13, Lee said.
According to Lee, since the amendments were made by executive order, the ministry is only legally obliged to notify the legislature of the changes.
However, out of an excess of caution, however, the legislature decided to review the amendments in committee, a process which Lee said she was glad to participate in.
May Chin (高金素梅), a Non-Partisan Solidarity Union member and one of the committee’s two conveners, said that the debate was potentially divisive, but hoped that the committee’s hearing could open a dialogue and allow each side to listen to opposing views.
The amendment could be reviewed before the end of the current legislative session on Dec. 17.
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