Gender equality changes target school harassment

CLOSING LOOPHOLES::Amendments state that schools must provide perpetrators with regular counseling, but are also able to dismiss them or terminate their contracts

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Dec 08, 2018 - Page 2

The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed amendments to the Gender Equality Education Act (性別平等教育法), including one that would require principals, presidents, faculty members or school employees who are found to have sexually harassed students or other school personnel, but refuse to apologize to the victim or take eight hours of gender equality classes, to face a fine of up to NT$50,000.

Until now, aside from giving demerits or warnings, schools had the right to order the perpetrator to apologize to the victim, take eight hours of gender equality classes or subject them to other educational measures, after obtaining the consent of the victim or their proxies.

The new rule stipulates that perpetrators who refuse to comply with measures prescribed by their school or refuse to cooperate with the school’s gender equality education committee in its investigation would be fined between NT$10,000 and NT$50,000, and could be repeatedly fined until they comply.

New Power Party Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), who proposed the amendment, said that the old rule created a loophole that was sometimes exploited by schools to allow perpetrators to go unpunished.

One amendment, proposed by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiang Nai-hsin (蔣乃辛), stipulates that schools can dismiss perpetrators or terminate their contracts.

Another amendment, initiated by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤), says that sexual harassment or assault cases that occur on a campus must be investigated by the school’s gender equality education committee; any attempt to assemble another body for the investigation is prohibited and any investigation by such a body would be voided.

However, should the perpetrator be the school principal or president, an investigation should be launched by the school’s governing agency, namely local governments or the Ministry of Education, depending on its level, the amended act stipulates.

Schools informed of a sexual harassment or assault case must provide perpetrators with regular counseling, and when a perpetrator is a student who has transferred to another school, the original school must inform the new school within a month of the transferred student’s need for counseling, one amendment says.

Unless they have a legitimate reason, schools must not disclose the identity of the perpetrator, one amendment says. Those who contravene this rule face a maximum fine of NT$150,000.

Schools at all levels must not employ anyone proven to have committed sexual assault or a grievous sexual harassment, while perpetrators of common sexual harassment are to be barred from employment at education institutions for one to four years, an amendment says.