ˇ@ˇ@Since the law usually conveys the values and norms of the persons in power, analyzing the social context of the law may give us general ideas of the gender relationships in daily life. In the current legal system of Taiwan, laws which affect women's rights are as follows: the Constitution, the Family Law of the Civil Code, the Standards for Labor Work, the Industry Law, the Services for Employee, and some protective regulations for women.
The Constitutionˇ@ˇ@The Constitution promises that every citizen, man and woman, will be treated equally under the law. A person's ethnicity or gender won't influence her right: to live, to work, to property, to participate in politics, and to protect her own freedom. Theoretically all citizens are equal. The Constitution only provides the most general principles, what really rules are the practical laws and regulations. Unfortunately, gender discrimination still exists in our society because of the traditional patriarchal views and social structure.
The Family Law of the Civil Code
Marriage: Patriarchy still rulesˇ@ˇ@The current Family Law, which regulates relationships in marriage and in the family, was first passed in 1930. Even in 1998, patriarchal ideology continues to influence the family. There are four laws keeping the existing patriarchy solid:
- The wife has to live where her husband lives.
- The children shall inherit their father's family name.
- When parents disagree with each other on disciplining their children, the father has the final decision.
- The husband has the right to manage all the property in the marriage, and can override any of his wife's decisions. He has the final say.
ˇ@ˇ@These regulations restrict wives from receiving their own property or gaining custody of the children if their marriages become unbearable. These laws weaken a woman's freedom to choose and therefore her power.
ˇ@ˇ@In divorce cases, husbands manipulate the so-called "living obligation" by accusing their wives that they have "maliciously abandoned and neglected obligations to the marriage", to escape their responsibility to pay alimony. According to the statistics provided by the Judicial Yuan, among the divorce cases in the family court, those cases appealed to "maliciously abandon" amount to 70% of all divorce cases in 1989 and remained the biggest category between 1990 and 1995.(Table 4) Husbands use this reason frequently. Sixty percent of the accusers are male; only 40% of accusers are female.
The Impact of the Revised Family Law on Womenˇ@ˇ@The current family law has been modified twice, once in 1985 and once in 1996. The new version is different from the original in three ways: It:
- Expands the definition of "acceptable reasons for judicial divorce", making it easier to get a divorce;
- Allows wives to keep their own property registered in her name before 1985 without proving that she previously owned it; and
- Asks the judge to consider the best interest of children when evaluating the custody of children in a divorce case.
ˇ@ˇ@These new articles have helped to protect women's rights, but their execution will determine their effectiveness. For example, although the new articles outline the decision it is still subject to personal judgments. Therefore, professionals making these determinations (social workers and judges) should receive advanced training to render objective decisions.
The Legal System for Labor Relationsˇ@ˇ@The four laws and regulations which try to protect female workers' rights are as follows: the Standards for Labor Work, the Law of Labors' Security and Health, the Law of Industry and the Services for Employee.
ˇ@ˇ@Labor laws provide two kinds of protection for women in the workplace. The first is the principle of anti-discrimination, which describes the ideal of equal opportunity and equal pay for the same job. The second set of laws is maternity protection, including adjusting the working conditions (hours, job content) for a pregnant woman. The laws also cover maternity leave and child care. However, in reality, there is discrimination in different occupations. One of the most notorious practices is the so-called "contract for single female employee" or "article of forbidden bearing", that is, forcing female employees to quit "voluntarily" after getting married or pregnant.
- Gender Equity in the Workplace
ˇ@ˇ@Why are the current laws not effective in protecting female workers? The reasons are as follows.
ˇ@ˇ@ In 1984, when the Standards for Labor Work was first enacted, only limited occupations were affected. The banking, service and commercial areas for example were outside the reach of this law. ˇ@ These fields in specific are heavily populated with women workers, but men and women employees had no access to this law. The reach of this law has expanded. By the end of 1998, workers in many occupations will enjoy the protection of this law.
- Limited application of the law
ˇ@ˇ@If an employer writes a contract of "married and quit", the government can only fine him a one-time ever charge of NT 3,000. Therefore the fine is meaningless to employers. Besides, the related acts or laws don't regulate concretely what discrimination is, thus the employers easily avoid punishment.
- The article to fine is too general and powerless
ˇ@ˇ@As mentioned above, maternity protection is ineffective. ˇ@ According to national statistics, 50% of the women between 15 to 64 have quit a job at least once, and about a third of them resigned right after giving birth (Table 14). ˇ@ Caring for a family is usually the primary reason for interrupting a woman's career. (Table 13) Childcare is a heavy financial burden for women such that women often choose to forgo their careers.
- The Incompleteness of Maternity Protection
ˇ@ˇ@If a woman continues working after starting a family, the workplace offers little support. Only the government and a few private companies provide maternity leave and maternity leave usually deters a woman's promotion. Day care centers and associated child care services are sparse and expensive, increasing the stress as a woman juggles a career and family responsibilities.
Action Took for the Protection of Abused Womenˇ@ˇ@The grassroots movement and the women's movement have been working for a long time to increase abused women's protection under the law. However, resistance from two sources stalled efforts. In addition to resistance resulting from patriarchal views, different opinions inside the legal profession also hindered the process. The basic disagreement is whether a special law is necessary to protect abused women. Some legal experts insist that modifying the original laws is enough and won't make the system chaotic, while others insist a new law is needed immediately. Despite this resistance, the Act of Prevention and Treatment for Sexual Assault Problem passed in the end of 1996. The Act of Domestic Violence and the Act of Gender Equality in Work are still pending.
The Report on Women's Status in Taiwan, 1998 Health Working Status Population and Family Welfare Resources Education Physical Safety Political Involvement Legal Status Statistics Related to the Women's Status Report
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updated : 1998.10.27