Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taiwan government helps to break gender stereotypes

More Taiwanese women are choosing not to marry and those that do are often getting married later in life according to a recent Central News Agency (CNA) article quoting statistics from the Ministry of Interior (MOI). The government report revealed that 29.6 percent of Taiwanese women ages 30-39 were single in 2007, but by 2008, the figure had jumped to 32.3 percent. A great deal of this change can be attributed to the gender equality policies of the government, which has worked to level the playing field for the sexes since the 1990s.

In particular, two landmark laws provided increasing protection for women. They are the Sexual Assault Prevention Act and the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, which came into effect in 1997 and 1998 respectively. “In terms of the legal framework, Taiwan is on par with the United States, with its passage of many advanced laws to give women’s rights a legal foundation,” said Minister Wang Ju-hsuan of the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA). Other laws and programs have followed that have promoted gender equality.

Among them is the Employment Act (2002), which eliminated gender discrimination in the work place and provided paid leave and job protection during maternity leave. In 2007, Taiwan adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a United Nation’s act recognized as the international bill of rights for women.

Furthermore, Taiwanese women are bucking the old fashion belief that a successful woman must be married. As Taiwanese women achieve greater equality at home and in the work place, fewer are getting married. In the past, single women over the age of 30 were often considered unsuccessful if they were not married. However, society is challenging this stereotype and it is being reflected on television.

In “My Queen,” a popular television series about an assertive and successful career woman, gender stereotypes are tackled. The series focuses on Shan Wu-shung, a 30-something single journalist who is very good at her job. However, despite her success, she is considered a “loser” by her mother due to her single status. The series resonates with tens of thousand of female viewers who battle with certain societal expectation of women.

No longer are women content to be stigmatized by society as a “loser” or makeinu. The popular term makeinu means “loser dog” in Japanese is based on the bestselling book Makeinu no toboe (The Howl of the Loser Dog) by Sakai Junko about over-30 singles in Tokyo. Although seen as a loser by that culture, it was far from how Sakai saw herself. Taiwanese women are also re-defining this former derogatory term and assuming the name makeinu with pride.

In addition to passing laws, Taiwan has also allocated money towards promoting and studying gender equality. In March 2008, the MOI helped open and fund the Taiwan Women’s Center. The center is run by the Foundation for Women’s Rights Promotion and Development (FWRPD). It links 110 island-wide women’s centers, 700-odd women’s organizations and about 1,000 Taiwanese female entrepreneurs. The center not only links and empowers Taiwanese women, but also serves as a visible force in the international community and a guide to the governmental policymaking process.

Another way Taiwan is promoting gender equality is by bestowing awards on Taiwanese businesses that have built a workplace free of gender discrimination. According to the Taiwan Review, the CLA awarded 69 Taiwanese enterprises for their efforts in instituting flexible work hours and time off, maternity and childcare subsidies, and equal promotion opportunities.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.