ˇ@ˇ@To be free from fear is a basic human need and is usually used to indicate the level of human rights in a society. In Taiwan, the status of women has been improving in the last thirty years; however, violence against women still threatens most women. Violence exists not only in public, but also in the private sphere.
Not only Women's Businessˇ@ˇ@More and more data shows that women, are victims of sexual assault. All this data repeatedly confirm that women, especially teenage girls, are under a higher risk of being assaulted than men. For example, a survey of college students in 1992 shows that 1 in 100 male students has been raped once, while 1 in 24 female students has been raped once. The results of another survey of working women find that 1% of the interviewees have been raped(Table 25).
ˇ@ˇ@The second statistical method to assess the seriousness of sexual assault problem is to examine the judicial statistics(Table 24). Most scholars agree that the black number, the rate of reported criminal cases to unreported ones is ten percent. ˇ@ Using this rate, there are at least six thousand rapes per year. But the average rate of conviction is only 30%, and it decreased to 21% in 1996. What makes victims more uncomfortable is that 20% of rapists sentenced during 1984 to 1993, were second-time offenders. As noted above, this fact does not truly reflect the number of rapes.
ˇ@ˇ@To sum up the contemporary situation of the sexual assault problem, it has three characteristics: a low reporting rate, a low conviction rate and a high repeat offender rate. Generally speaking, public security has been decreasing in the past five years, while the percentage of serious cases that threaten someone's physical safety has grown. (Table 26). As a result, women anxiety about sexual violence has increased and their perception of their safety has been negatively altered.
ˇ@ˇ@The murder of a famous politician Ms. Pong, who was a women's advocate, shook up the sluggish political system in 1996. Responding to strong pressure from women groups and public opinion that supported more protection, the legislature finally enacted the prevention and treatment of sexual assault bill that had been pending for three years. However, it doesn't mean the protective system has been improved. There are still some serious problems in the contemporary protective system.
Problems of the Protective System
ˇ@The laws against rape not only reflect the values of the group in power, but also reflect people attitude toward rape. Therefore, examining the laws against rape may offer hints as to why the current system cannot solve the problem efficiently. The major problems of the rape law are as follows.
- A Legal System Without Women's Voice
ˇ@Rape is considered as a problem of public nuisance that emphasizes a woman's virginity or her morality, instead of an offense of physical assault. Woman's right to refuse sexual intercourse is not fully acknowledged, resting on the assumption that a woman always cooperates or initiates the act. Thus, rape still follows the rules of patriarchy.ˇ@As a result, the victims turn out to be the ones to defend their innocence, not the rapists.
ˇ@One of the reasons the conviction rate of rape is low is the severe standards of the law. It is written that rape can be considered a crime unless the degree of violence is so strong that the victims really can resist. Physical or documented evidence of fighting back is needed to convict a rapist. Often rapes occur in isolated places without witnesses. The emphasis of the law is on the victim proving her innocence, instead of the attacker. The court and her community, try to assess whether she provoked this attack and therefore is somehow responsible for luring the man to rape her. The victim's life is exposed, analyzed, and discussed while the rapist's life is barely examined.
ˇ@ˇ@The government responded quickly to Ms. Pong murder by calling a national conference on public safety and establishing a special committee on the advancement of women rights in the Executive Yuan. However, the committee is not an established institution in the administrative system of government and has no legal authority to order or evaluate the performance of other parts of the huge bureaucracy. Needless to say, the influence of this newly founded committee is limited. Although reforming the police system is one of the goals of this committee, the distribution of manpower in the police system in 1998 is still biased to the special police force whose main task is to suppress the violent public, instead of the community police who protect the public(Table 27).
- The Ignorance of the Police System on Women's Views
ˇ@ˇ@The quality of the police force is another question. Can the community police handle the cases of marital violence and sexual assault properly? Since the police schools don't even offer any special classes on these issues, the answer may be "No".
ˇ@ˇ@The good news is that the special law on sexual assault enacted in 1997 has a set of standard procedures for managing such cases. The new law acknowledges the problem of secondary trauma from the prosecuting system, the police and the medical examining system and tries to prevent it. ˇ@ The special law also demands the Interior Minister to organize a special committee. It is very clear that such a committee should have much more supervising authority and encompass women views.
ˇ@ˇ@To sum up, 1997 is a brand-new year for preventing and treating sexual assault. Both the local and central governments have set up their special centers and organizations to help victims. What still needs to be improved is to supply these centers with enough budget and professional manpower, to execute their tasks adequately? (See also Women Status in the Welfare System)
Marital Violence? More than What You Already Knowˇ@ˇ@How many husbands beat their wives or intimate partners in Taiwan? Since there is no universal survey yet, most estimates provided by the government or individuals estimate around seventy thousand victims. See also the Welfare: the protective welfare service. ˇ@ Since the definition of marital violence in research is confined to physical violence, excluding emotional, psychological and sexual abuse, there may be more victims. However, the contemporary legal system doesn't provide much support to the victims, and neither does any special law on this issue. In 1997, one women group lobbied for a special law on marital violence but the bill is pending.
ˇ@ˇ@Why is legal reform necessary for effective support to victims of marital violence? The first reason is related to the victims' typical patterns and the strict system of divorce in Taiwan. Generally speaking, the victims will go through the so-called cycle of violence" several times before they finally call for help to the formal system including the court. After the first outward step has been taken, the victims usually reject violence and start divorce proceedings. However, the judges are usually reluctant to agree to a divorce unless the victims can prove that the abuse is really unbearable. What if the victims can convince the judges? Some wives fight back while others run away from home. Of course, neither approach is a good solution. Some abusers are experts in manipulating the law. For example, the abusers whose wives leave them appeal for divorce claiming abandonment. If they succeed with this strategy, the wives can demand for supervision of the children or any money.
ˇ@ˇ@The second reason to reform the legal system is that the existing system can't protect the basic human rights of the victims. Since judges are reluctant to get involved in the business in the private sphere", there are few chances to sentence the abusers. Usually they are fined a small amount. The legal system is not strong enough to correct the unequal relationship between abusers and their partners. There is no "protection order", which can protect the victim from her attacker. To provide equal protection under the law, the legal system still needs much reform.
Summaryˇ@ˇ@Compared to other countries, the quality of public safety in Taiwan is not horrible. But more women than men are victims and the percentage is growing. ˇ@ In the past two years, after several terrifying murders including a long-beaten wife who finally killed her husband, and two victims of cruel sexual assault, has alerted the whole society to care about the so-called private business of family. As a result, the government has finally enacted related laws. ˇ@ The administrative procedures on managing the cases of marital violence and sexual assault are still being tested and the professional team is learning from trial and error. The quality of related services does need more caring and supervision from every part of society.
The Report on Women's Status in Taiwan, 1998 Legal Status Welfare Resources Population and Family Education Physical Safety Working Status Political Involvement Health Statistics Related to the Women's Status Report
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updated : 1998.10.27