A women’s group and lawmakers yesterday were enraged by a Taiwan High Court ruling the previous day that acquitted a man of sexual harassment for holding a female subordinate at the shoulder and waist.
The court failed to take into consideration the female victim’s feelings, Modern Women’s Foundation executive director Yao Shu-wen (姚淑文) said.
On Tuesday, the court ruled in favor of a man surnamed Chang (張) in the second trial of a sexual harassment case.
Chang, 36 and married, was accused by a subordinate surnamed Hu (胡) of twice placing his hand on her shoulders and then putting hands around her waist for 10 seconds during an employees’ gathering at a pub in February 2008.
Feeling violated, Hu later filed a complaint with her company and filed a lawsuit against Chang at the Hsinchu District Court.
The district court found Chang guilty of sexual harassment and sentenced him to 40 days’ detention on the grounds that his actions constituted “touching another’s hips, breasts or other private body parts before one can resist,” as stipulated in the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act (性騷擾防治法).
The High Court, however, overturned the lower court’s ruling in the second trial, saying that as women often expose their shoulders or waist in summertime, shoulders and waists should not be considered private body parts like breasts, hips and genitalia. As the defendant did not touch those private parts, his actions did not constitute sexual harassment, the High Court said. Tuesday’s verdict was final.
Yao Shu-wen (姚淑文), executive director of the Modern Women’s Foundation, which promoted the enactment of the act four years ago, said the waist was a sensitive body part for women.
Women do not allow men to touch their waists unless they are in a relationship, she said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) accused the High Court judges of having an “outdated mindset,” adding that the justice system must be more flexible and evolve over time.
She said she was concerned the verdict might have a negative impact on the public’s definition of sexual harassment.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Sue-ying (黃淑英), a member of the legislature’s Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee, said judges must take a defendant’s intent and a victim’s feelings into account when determining whether a move constitutes sexual harassment.
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