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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Taiwan faces its #MeToo moment

Taiwan faces its #MeToo moment

The #MeToo movement was started by activist Tarana Burke, who coined the term in 2006. However, it gained traction in 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano urged victims of sexual harassment and assault to share their stories on social media.

Several celebrities did so, as did millions of others in the years that followed. The results were far-reaching — scores of formerly powerful men have been toppled after being accused of sexual assault and harassment, such as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

The movement is now spreading in Taiwan’s political world. The movement started after a former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) worker in an online post detailed how DPP deputy secretary-general Hsu Chia-tien (許嘉恬) poured cold water on her pleas for help after being sexually harassed and dissuaded her from seeking a full investigation into the incident.

As other victims came forward to talk about similar treatment and experiences in other political parties, the cases of misconduct are being brought under public scrutiny, bringing the issue of sexual harassment to the forefront.

This provides an opportunity to assess and expel unfit politicians, and address social issues such as gender inequality and the abuse of power.

Unfortunately, as it is now campaign season, political parties have latched on to the sexual harassment scandals to hurl accusations at each other, causing double injury for the victims in the process.

In the #MeToo movement, victim-blaming should be the last thing on people’s mind. Instead, they should direct their attention to pinpoint the structural issues and reasons behind each incident. The accusations should never be trivialized into a mere political problem, but a human rights issue that concerns every member of society.

When Vice President and DPP Chairman William Lai (賴清德) was asked about the incident, he said that abuse of power and gender inequality at the workplace should, by no means, be swept under the carpet for the sake of a political campaign.

I would like to add a twist to Lai’s remark: People should take the “campaign” seriously, a campaign that stands up for the victims and for a brighter, equal future.

This campaign should not concern party interests, neither should they be launched for the sake of political campaigns, but to create a friendly work environment, promote gender equality and build a society where every person respects each other. This is the “campaign” that everyone hopes to see.

As for the victims, the public should give them their full support and empathy, and help them return to a normal life.

For the abusers, society should let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and that they should make amends, repent of their wrongdoing, throw themselves behind the campaign and ask for forgiveness.

Perhaps this is a God-given opportunity for Taiwan to tackle sexual inequality and the abuse of power prevalent in the workplace by incorporating sexual issues into the curriculum or making legal amendments.

Only by bringing about real changes can Taiwanese prevent similar tragedies from happening again and ensure that the tears of the victims were not shed in vain.

By having the courage to stand up and use our voice to support the victims and respect others, we can all become a Tarana Burke or Alyssa Milano for others.

Sammuel Tung is a freelance writer and political worker.

Translated by Rita Wang

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/06/08

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