Taiwan's New Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws: A Step Forward, but Still Room for Improvement

Taiwan's New Anti-Sexual Harassment Laws: A Step Forward, but Still Room for Improvement
Photo: Taiwan has been rocked by a wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Reuters.


Dana Andreeva

East Asia Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Taiwan recently passed new anti-sexual harassment laws in response to the #MeToo reckoning that shook the nation. The movement gained momentum after the ruling Democratic Progressive Party faced a series of sexual assault claims, leading to resignations and further allegations against powerful figures, including celebrities. While the new laws have been praised as a legislative milestone, activists argue that they still fall short of addressing all forms of sexual harassment in the deeply patriarchal and hierarchical society. (Ng & Lu, 2023)

The newly passed laws require all workplaces, including previously exempt small businesses with at least 10 employees, to establish channels for reporting sexual harassment. Employers must investigate all complaints and report their findings to local labor authorities. Failure to comply can result in fines of up to 1 million New Taiwan dollars ($31,700). (Wu, H, 2023)

The amendments also extend the statute of limitations for power-based sexual harassment claims to three years from the incident's discovery or seven years from the occurrence. Employers must take immediate action, such as placing the accused on leave or reassignment during investigations, and terminate the contract within 30 days if the allegations are proven true. (LaMattina, 2023)

Discriminatory or insulting language against someone based on their gender, as well as punishing others professionally for rejecting advances, will now be considered sexual harassment under the new laws. (Wu, S, 2023)

Law professor Carol Lin views the new laws as a positive step but recognizes that changing entrenched societal mindsets will take time. She emphasises the need for "success stories" of harassers being held accountable to empower victims to come forward. (Ng & Lu, 2023)

However, some activists, including former Labor Minister Wang Ju-hsuan, believe that the amendments do not adequately address harassment outside the workplace, such as in religious institutions. They also call for heftier penalties to prevent malicious retaliation and the creation of a platform to encourage witnesses to intervene. (Ng & Lu, 2023)

Taiwan's new anti-sexual harassment laws represent progress in addressing the pervasive issue of sexual misconduct. The expansion of workplace coverage and the inclusion of discriminatory language as harassment are notable improvements. However, there is still work to be done in combating sexual harassment in non-work settings and in changing societal attitudes. (LaMattina, 2023)

The success of the #MeToo movement in Taiwan relies not only on legal reforms but also on gender education and transforming social culture. By acknowledging the need for broader societal changes, Taiwan can continue to make strides towards a more inclusive and respectful society, providing better protection and support for victims of sexual harassment in all domains of life.

Sources and Further Reading:

Ng, B., &  Lu, B., (2023, August 4). Taiwan's new MeToo laws are welcome but activists want more. BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-66379933 

Wu, S., (2023, July 13). Taiwan proposes stricter sexual harassment laws after #MeToo erupts. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/taiwan-proposes-stricter-sexual-harassment-laws-after-metoo-erupts-2023-07-13/ 

LaMatinna, L., (2023, August 8). Taiwan’s new laws targeting workplace sexual harassment after #MeToo. Taiwan News. https://www.taiwannews.com.tw/en/news/4965654 

Wu, H., (2023, July 31). Taiwan amends laws on sexual harassment after recent #MeToo wave. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/taiwan-sexual-violence-harassment-laws-metoo-b6ad0340bf9ceee1ebdbf5a10a3bf2b8