Media tour highlights  Taiwan’s progress on gender equality
September 14, 2018
Media tour highlights Taiwan’s progress on gender equality

by Katherine Renton

The Republic of China (Taiwan) hosted a delegation of 19 journalists from far flung places of the globe last week, for an examination of Taiwan’s progress in the area of gender equality.

Among the 15 countries that took part, St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) attended from the Caribbean, alongside participants from Latin America, the Middle East, Pacific Islands, Europe, Asia and Australia.

The predominantly female delegation, with only one male journalist present from a news agency in Spain, was able to meet with officials, foundations and non-governmental organisations to learn about the collective work done.

These meetings included calling on the Assistant Director-General of the Ministry of Labour, the Deputy Director-General for Small and Medium Enterprises, the dynamic Ambassador-at-large, Fan Yun, and the Director of the Social Affairs Bureau, among others.

By the end of the trip, reporters were able to glean a picture of the situation of gender equality in Taiwan, a country which elected its first female President, Tsai Ing-Wen, in 2016.

Most significantly was the delegation’s call to Minister-without-portfolio, Lo Ping Cheng, who was accompanied by a host of representatives from various ministries and the Department of Gender Equality.

Katherine Renton

These officials provided an overview of policies and moves made by the executive and the legislature on gender equality.

They revealed that a Department of Gender Equality was set up under the Gender Equality Committee (GEC) in 2012. The GEC was set up with the purpose of the integrating policies on gender equality in the Ministries and local governments in Taiwan. Under the GEC are six task forces with focus on areas such as employment, personal safety and education.

Notably, Taiwan, although not a member of the United Nations, also decided to implement CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women), an international treaty by the United Nations General Assembly, and stipulated that national reports be made every four years. On the second national report in 2014, 228 regulations and administrative measures were said to have been found as non-compliant with CEDAW principles, and 214 amended or abolished. In 2018, 73 recommendations for improvement were found.

The Taiwanese Government has also sought to implement the principle of the one-third gender ratio, and have seemingly succeeded for the most part with more than 33 per cent of decision makers in the public sector being female. However, this has not been achieved in the judiciary and private sector.

A number of laws have also been passed on problem areas, including the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, and the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. A Gender Equality in Employment Act was passed in the early 2000’s.

An issue that Taiwan is still having is reducing the gender pay gap, which is said to be at a difference of 16.2 per cent. Further, mindset can be a challenge, women choosing to give up their rights to property even though equally entitled, or they receive fewer property gifts from their parents. The country is also said to battle stereotyped attitudes on women’s role in the family.

Perhaps the biggest problem, having been repeated throughout the tour, is the difficulty for mothers to find reasonable childcare services, therefore making it near impossible for them to return to their jobs.

The tour guide for the women’s landmark tour, also a mother, revealed that she had been living in a part of Taipei that was cheaper for babysitters, but the pay for the babybsitter was close to her monthly salary. She explained that many women give up their jobs to take care of their children until the children reach kindergarten age, but that gap can hurt their career. This expense is thought to have resulted in Taiwan’s low birth rate of 1.13 per cent.

The Minister, in his commentary, stated, “As you know Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations, and our international situation is much more challenging than other countries. However, we are insistent and confident in upholding human rights values.”

SVG was represented by Katherine Renton of SEARCHLIGHT newspaper.