The new MeToo legislation in Taiwan is welcome, but activists want more

The new sexual harassment laws in Taiwan are viewed as a first step in the country's MeToo reckoning, but activists claim they fall short in several areas.

As a result of an onslaught of sexual assault allegations, the Democratic Progressive Party rushed to tighten the law.

This resulted in the resignation of a number of party members and prompted additional allegations against other prominent figures, including celebrities. The amendments come five months before an important election.

Carol Lin, a law professor, lauded the changes as a legislative landmark, but she cautioned that it will take time for society to discard entrenched attitudes that normalize sexual harassment.

All workplaces, including previously exempted small businesses with at least 10 employees, must now establish channels for reporting sexual harassment under the new laws passed during a special legislative session.

Employers must also investigate all allegations of sexual harassment and disclose the results to local labor authorities. Failure to comply may result in a sanction of up to 1 million New Taiwan dollars ($31,700).

Previously, the only recourse for alleged victims was judicial trials. Under the new laws, the use of discriminatory or demeaning language, as well as acts that punish others professionally for rejecting one's advances, will constitute sexual harassment. Additionally, the statute of limitations has been extended.

In addition, former Taiwanese Minister of Labor Wang Ju-hsuan stated that the amendments do not provide victims with adequate recourse in cases where harassment occurs outside the workplace.

Ms. Wang, who is a lawyer, also wants harsher punishments to prevent "malicious retaliation" and a platform to encourage witnesses to intervene.

"It is difficult for victims to provide evidence, not to mention the fear of retaliation and societal pressure," she told sources.

The new laws extend to schools as well. Now, educators are expressly prohibited from having romantic relationships with pupils younger than 18 years old.

Teachers and administrators who neglect to report student harassment complaints to the Ministry of Education are subject to a fine.

According to Wang Yueh-Hao, chief executive officer of the Taiwanese non-profit Garden of Hope Foundation, the new laws must be accompanied by a revamp of gender equity and sex education in schools. "Because individuals are expected to always respect their mentors and superiors, it has taken so long for these victims to come forward. Such perspectives must alter, she stated.

In spite of this, Ms. Wang reported that her organization, which assists victims of sexual violence, has witnessed a twentyfold increase in cases filed by alleged victims over the past two months.

She views this as evidence that Taiwan's MeToo movement, despite its tardiness, has been productive. The Netflix original film Wave Makers has been attributed as the movement's inspiration.

The series about Taiwanese political employees working on an election features a pivotal scene in which a party spokeswoman decides to act on a female staffer's complaint that she was sexually harassed by a colleague, despite the fact that the revelation could be detrimental to the party.

This prompted a large number of Taiwanese with comparable experiences to come forward.

However, the reckoning has also sparked a backlash, with many people questioning the motivations of the alleged victims. Such responses are evidence that not only the law, but also people's attitudes, need to change, Ms. Lin stated.