Two sexual harassment cases have made national headlines recently and rekindled public concern and debate about women's rights in the workplace.
On Jan. 18 a female nurse, surnamed Yang, at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital (長庚醫院) filed a civil suit for violation of personal dignity against anesthesiologist Shen Chin-hua (沈青華). Yang said her action was prompted by dissatisfaction over the way her employer handled the case.
Even though Shen later resigned under media pressure, the hospital reportedly had asked Yang to make an out-of-court settle-ment. The hostile working environment that she encountered after the incident forced her to request a transfer to Kaohsiung.
Yang also filed an employment discrimination complaint with the local government's Employment Discrimination Review Committee (
There are currently no laws in Taiwan regarding punishment for sexual harassment in the workplace. The only effective regulations against sexual harassment are included in the Law on Gender Equality in the Workplace bill (
The bill proposes that companies should set up guidelines and committees to take charge of sexual harassment complaints.
In another incident, a 20-year-old student at the National Taipei University of Technology (國立台北科技大學) went public on May 26, 1999, with an accusation of sexual harassment after meeting with indifference by officials at both her university and the education ministry.
She claimed that the university had tried to shelve the investigation and had sought to persuade her to give up the fight, and that the ministry had decided not to release its own report on investigations into the allegation.
Even though the Control Yuan demanded on Jan. 12 that the university and the ministry punish the officials concerned for misconduct, the student said it is hard for those who had never experienced such fear and despair to understand what she has gone through.
Academic institutions are currently required by the education ministry to form a gender equality education committee on campus to handle charges of sexual harassment. Even though the ministry made the announcement in March 1997, procedural guidelines were not handed down until March 1999. In addition, academic institutions are not subject to any form of disciplinary measures if they fail to comply with the orders.
Courage and compassion
While sexual harassment has always been a problem for women, only in the past two decades have women come forward in large numbers to demand remedies and institutional changes. But even today, only a small number of feminist litigators have won acknowledgement that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.
According to Peng Yen-wen (
A female court staffer was granted NT$200,000 in compensation in 1998, and a travel agency employee was awarded NT$100,000 in compensation the same year.
Although more women have come forward with complaints, many are still reluctant to reveal their identities. It is almost as if they feel they are the party at fault.
"This has a lot to do with media overexposure," says Lai Yu-mei (
how to define
Sexual harassment is rude, demeaning and unwelcome expressions or behavior, says Frank Huang (黃富源), a criminologist and professor at the Central Police University (中央警察大學). It is usually ultimately about the abuse of power.
The most recognized forms of sexual harassment, Huang says, include direct sexual advances or propositions -- including higher-ranked employees asking for sexual favors; creating a hostile workplace environment for women by using sexist jokes, remarks, or pinning up sexually explicit or pornographic photos; and intimidating or excluding women employees in such a way as to jeopardize their employment status.
"The proposed bill which is still awaiting passage by the legislature, however, is in itself incomplete as it covers only the direct forms of sexual harassment and hostility in the workplace," Huang says.
According to a survey conducted in 1999 by the Taipei Association of Wage-Earners (
A 1995 study conducted by Kaohsiung Medical College (
Other studies have also found that harassment is more commonly found in male-dominated workplaces where the majority of women earn low wages and the management is predominantly male.
However, sexual harassment does not happen only to women.
"It can happen to anyone," Huang says. "What it means is behavior or expressions, whether directed at a man or woman, which are recognized by contemporary, normal standards as unwelcome."
Prevention measures and legal remedies
Since current laws do not hold employers responsible for protecting employees from harassment by supervisors, coworkers or non-employees, victims are forced to take the initiative in any action against sexual harassment.
"Victims should bear in mind that tolerance does not make things better and hesitation to seek help only makes things worse," Huang says. "If the harassment is not too severe or violent, directly confronting the harasser may be useful. Otherwise, witnesses or victims are encouraged to report the behavior immediately because privacy only protects harassers, but visibility undermines them."
Before a claim is filed, either with the employer or the union, Huang says, it is necessary to have full documentation of the incident because this can be used as evidence in a complaint or in court.
If the complaint is filed with an outside agency, it is advisable to consult an attorney or women's interest groups, Huang says.
Currently, if a case is judged as employment discrimination by the local government's Employment Discrimination Review Committee, the employer can be fined up to NT$30,000.
The civil lawsuit awards the victim of sexual harassment compensations ranging from NT$100,000 to NT$400,000.
If the harassment crosses over into the criminal realm such as sexual assault or rape, the victim should report it to the police.
‘NO EQUILIBRIUM’: Taiwan’s increased defense spending is a good step, but it needs to do more to have the ability to deter aggression from China, a senior US official said The US plans to sell as many as seven major weapons systems — including mines, cruise missiles and drones — to Taiwan, four people familiar with the discussions said. Pursuing seven sales at once is a rare departure from years of precedent in which US military sales to Taiwan were spaced out and carefully calibrated to minimize tensions with Beijing. However, US President Donald Trump’s administration has this year become more aggressive with China, and the sales would land as relations between Beijing and Washington are at their lowest point in decades over accusations of spying, lingering trade tensions, disputes about the
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS: Several of the PLA fighter jets that crossed the median line of the Strait came within 68km of Hsinchu, drawing warnings from Taiwan, the ministry said At least 18 Chinese military aircraft yesterday flew into the nation’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on the second day of a US delegation’s visit, the Ministry of National Defense said, adding that the military responded by deploying an air defense missile system to monitor their activities. A delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach on Thursday started a three-day visit to Taiwan. The ministry from Thursday started publicizing the actions of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Taiwan’s ADIZ on its Web site and Twitter. According to ministry reports, 18 PLA aircraft
TWO CASES: The five allegedly conspired with conglomerates, threatening the nation’s governance and subverting the rules of ethical conduct, a deputy chief prosecutor said Taipei prosecutors yesterday charged three legislators and one former lawmaker with contravening the Anti-Corruption Act (貪污治罪條例) in a case linked to former Pacific Distribution Investment Co (太平洋流通) chairman Lee Heng-lung’s (李恆隆) battle with the Far Eastern Group (遠東集團) over ownership of the Pacific SOGO Department Store (太平洋崇光百貨) chain, while independent Legislator Chao Cheng-yu (趙正宇) was indicted in a separate case involving two funeral services companies and a plot of land in a national park. Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and Sufin Siluko (廖國棟), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Su Chen-ching (蘇震清) and former New Power Party legislator
Swedish Member of Parliament Hampus Hagman is pushing for changing the name of the nation’s trade office in Taipei to signal improved relations with “Asia’s perhaps foremost democracy.” Hagman on Wednesday last week proposed renaming the Swedish Trade and Invest Council to “Sweden’s Office in Taipei,” following similar changes by other nations. The Swedish Trade and Invest Council, part of Business Sweden, is owned by the Swedish government and Swedish industry. Taiwan and Sweden share important values such as respect for democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of speech, Hagman said in the motion, adding that the two nations