On April 8, a woman was killed in a “traffic accident” in Pingtung County that turned out to be an abduction and homicide case. The victim had for a long time been stalked and harassed by the perpetrator, eventually leading to her tragic death.
The woman’s grieving family hopes that a law that prevents stalking and harassment would soon be enacted so that such incidents would not happen again.
Taiwan has no law specifically about stalking. In practice, stalkers are often penalized in accordance with the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), which forbids “stalking another person without justifiable reasons despite having been dissuaded.”
However, the stipulated fine of not more than NT$3,000 or a reprimand is not enough to deter stalking.
Among existing laws, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act (家庭暴力防治法), the Act of Gender Equality in Employment (性別工作平等法), the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法) and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法) also have provisions that might apply, but they are limited to “sexual harassment” and a limited range of people.
For example, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act only applies to family members, which at its broadest includes former spouses, former cohabitants, collateral relatives by blood or marriage within four degrees of kinship, and lineal relatives by blood or marriage. It does not provide any protection against stalking and harassment by non-family members.
With respect to civil liability for stalking, the High Court recently tried a case in which the defendant had repeatedly loitered near the plaintiff’s home and shouted their name, made 214 cellphone and landline calls, and even waited in front of the office where the plaintiff worked, and tailed them when they left their workplace on a scooter.
The plaintiff claimed that their freedom of movement, bodily rights and personal data autonomy had been unlawfully infringed, and sued the defendant for moral damages.
The High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, but reduced the amount of compensation on the grounds that mental suffering is a necessary condition for moral damages to be awarded.
After considering the age, academic records, marital status and assets of the two parties, as well as the pattern of the defendant’s stalking and the defendant’s reaction, the court reduced the compensation by NT$50,000.
The draft stalking prevention act would allow police to intervene immediately and take protective measures, and allow victims to apply for a protection order.
It also includes regulations about perpetrators’ liability, but not about their liability to pay damages. Perhaps this comes from the idea that victims would not want to engage in litigation with perpetrators, but that should not be a reason to overlook the harm done to victims or to presume that they would want to give up the right to seek compensation.
The government should think about how to enable stalking victims to assert their rights and protect their personal safety, while ensuring that the stalking does not recur, and add provisions to this effect to the draft legislation.
As for victims, after a court has affirmed the basis of their right to petition under civil law, they should consider seeking professional assistance from police or a lawyer to collect evidence and assert their rights with no worries about their own safety.
Lin Fenyu is a lawyer.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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