Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and domestic violence. Many victims did not report the crime for fear of social stigmatization, and various nongovernmental organization (NGO) and academic studies estimated that the total number of sexual assaults was seven to 10 times the number reported to police.
The law provides protection for rape survivors. Rape trials are not open to the public unless the victim consents. The law permits a charge of rape even if the victim chooses not to press charges.
The 2015 amendments to the Sexual Assault Crime Prevention Act prohibit any parties or persons from disclosing on the internet or to the media a sexual assault victim’s name or releasing any personally identifiable information associated with a victim. Persons violating the law face a fine ranging from NT$20,000 ($632) to NT$100,000 ($3,160). An article of the amended law expected to come into effect in 2017 stipulates that experts will assist in questioning and appear in court as witnesses when rape victims are minors or mentally disabled. It also authorizes the use of one-way mirrors, video conferencing, or other questioning and/or trial practices to protect victims.
The law establishes the punishment for rape as not less than five years’ imprisonment, and courts usually sentenced individuals convicted of rape to five to 10 years in prison. According to the Ministry of Justice, the average prosecution rate for rape and sexual assault over the past five years was approximately 47 percent, and the average conviction rate of cases prosecuted was approximately 88 percent.
Courts typically sentenced individuals convicted in domestic violence cases to less than six months in prison. Some abused women chose not to report incidents to police due to social pressure not to disgrace their families. The law allows prosecutors to investigate complaints of domestic violence even in cases where the victim has not filed a formal complaint.
The law requires all cities and counties to establish violence prevention and control centers to address domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and elder abuse. These centers provided victims with protection, medical treatment, emergency assistance, shelter, legal counseling, education, and training on a 24-hour basis. The Ministry of Health and Welfare oversees efforts to combat and address rape and domestic violence.
A March health and welfare ministry survey of women ages 18 to 74 found 26 percent of respondents had encountered abuse from an intimate partner at some point in their life, with psychological abuse being most common (suffered by 21 percent of respondents), followed by physical abuse (10 percent), economic abuse (9.6 percent), sexual violence (7.2 percent), and stalking and/or harassment (5.2 percent). The survey found that respondents aged 71 to 74 had experienced the highest rate of abuse (42.9 percent). The ministry estimated that 40 percent of physical abuse cases go unreported to authorities.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment (see section 7.d.). According to the latest figures available from the Ministry of Education, in 2014 there were 2,010 cases of sexual harassment against female students or staff reported by schools’ and universities’ Commissions of Gender Equality Education. In most cases, perpetrators were required to attend classes on gender equality and counseling sessions.
Reproductive Rights: Individuals and couples have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The law prohibits unmarried persons from obtaining fertility treatment.
Discrimination: The law provides the same legal status and rights for women as for men. Women experienced some discrimination in employment (see section 7.d.).
Gender-biased Sex Selection: In 2015 the ratio of boy-to-girl births was 108 to 100, the highest in five years. This figure prompted the Health Promotion Administration (HPA) to issue a warning that the sex ratio had increased beyond a natural range, which HPA said suggested the use of sex-selective abortions. Medical institutions may not carry out gender-biased sex selection procedures. Clinics and hospitals with higher rates of imbalance are subject to surveillance by authorities, and doctors who facilitate gender-biased sex selection are subject to fines. There were no reported cases of authorities imposing these fines during the year.
Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived from that of either parent. Births must be registered within 60 days; failure to do so results in the denial of national health care and education benefits.
Child Abuse: According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the percentage of abused children under age six increased from 21to 27 percent over the past four years. Central and local authorities coordinated with private organizations to identify and assist high-risk children and families and to increase public awareness of child abuse and domestic violence. The law stipulates that persons learning of cases of child abuse or neglect must notify the police or welfare authorities. Child welfare specialists must notify local authorities within 24 hours, and authorities must take appropriate measures within 24 hours. Regulations encourage officials to submit an investigation report within four days. The Ministry of Health and Welfare and NGO specialists monitored cases to ensure that authorities met all requirements. An official 24-hour hotline accepted complaints of child abuse and offered counseling. Courts are required to appoint guardians for children of parents deemed unfit.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 for men and 16 for women.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children and child pornography, and authorities effectively enforced the law.
The minimum age for engaging in consensual sexual relations is 16. Persons who engage in sex with children under age 14 face sentences of three to 10 years in prison. Those who engage in sex with minors between 14 and 16 receive a mandatory prison sentence of three to seven years. Solicitors of sex with minors over 16 but under 18 face up to one year in prison or hard labor or a fine of up to NT$3 million ($94,800). There were reports of minors engaged in prostitution.
International Child Abductions: Due to its unique political status, Taiwan is not eligible to become a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
The Jewish community was very small, estimated at 300 individuals who meet regularly, and consisted predominately of expatriates. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation services, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other state services (see section 7.d.).
Authorities enacted and made efforts to implement laws and programs to ensure access to buildings, information, and communications. Taiwan has incorporated the terms of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into its laws.
Amendments made in 2015 to the People with Disabilities Rights Protection Act require public transport operators to provide accessibility services. The requirement applies to all forms of public transportation, including rail, road, rapid transit, air, and water transport, and an operator can seek an exemption only with consent from transportation authorities and associations of persons with disabilities. Operators who fail to adapt their facilities to meet standards within a specific period will face fines of NT$10,000 ($316) to NT$50,000 ($1,580) that can be imposed repeatedly until improvements are made. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications subsidized drivers’ procurement of accessible taxis.
The amended law also stipulates that public infrastructure and entertainment venues feature accessibility facilities and equipment, and that venues failing to meet these requirements will lose their operating licenses. The amended law requires local governments to add real-time captioning for persons with hearing disabilities to public-service announcements.
Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs. NGOs contended that the lack of barrier-free spaces and accessible transportation systems continued to limit civic engagement by persons with disabilities, particularly outside Taipei. Advocacy groups noted that older buildings and parking garages often did not meet accessibility requirements.
Children with disabilities attended school, and officials and disabilities rights groups noted no patterns of abuse during the year, although there were occasional reports of sexual assaults in educational and mental health facilities. Students with disabilities mostly attended mainstream schools. NGOs asserted that services for students with disabilities remained largely inadequate, and disabled students at mainstream schools often relied on the assistance of hired help, parents, or grandparents to attend schools and use school facilities due to a lack of barrier-free facilities or adequate alternative facilities. Special primary, secondary, and vocational schools were available for students with disabilities.
The ministries of health and welfare and of labor are responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities. The law stipulates that authorities must provide services and programs to persons with disabilities. Authorities provided free universal medical care to persons with disabilities. NGOs continued to assert the need for more public nursing homes and expansion of current programs, such as home care services, to meet the growing needs of those with disabilities, an increasing number of whom were elderly persons.
As of July spouses born in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, or the PRC accounted for 2 percent of the population. Foreign and PRC-born spouses were targets of discrimination both inside and outside the home.
In December the legislature passed amendments to the Nationality Act that ease restrictions on naturalization of foreign spouses married to Taiwan passport holders. Under the amended law, foreign spouses who divorce due to domestic violence or who become widowed can still naturalize. The amended law also removes the requirement that foreign spouses renounce their citizenship when applying for naturalization by extending the period for renunciation to one year after naturalization.
Authorities offered free Chinese-language and child-rearing classes and counseling services at community outreach centers to facilitate foreign-born spouses’ integration into society. LAF provided legal services to foreign spouses and operated a hotline to receive complaints. The Ministry of Interior operated its own hotline with staff conversant in Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian, and English, as well as Chinese.
PRC-born spouses must wait six years to apply for Taiwan residency, whereas spouses born elsewhere may apply after three years. Unlike non-PRC spouses, PRC-born spouses have permission to work in Taiwan immediately on arrival. The amended Nationality Act does not apply to PRC-born spouses.
Authorities officially recognize 16 indigenous tribes, accounting for approximately 2 percent of the population. The law guarantees indigenous people equal civil and political rights and stipulates that authorities should provide resources to help indigenous groups develop a system of self-governance, formulate policies to protect their basic rights, and promote the preservation and development of their languages and cultures.
Some groups continued to push for official recognition as indigenous tribes. In May, the Taipei High Administrative Court denied indigenous status to Tainan’s Siraya people of the Pingpu group. Tainan granted the Siraya people tribal status at the municipal level and called on the administration to support this group, which first filed an administrative lawsuit seeking tribal status in 2010. In October the Executive Yuan approved a proposal to gradually restore the indigenous status and rights of the Pingpu tribe.
On August 1, Indigenous People’s Day as designated by the new administration, President Tsai became the first Taiwan president to issue a formal apology to Taiwan’s indigenous people for injustices suffered through the centuries. President Tsai announced that she would lead an Indigenous Historical Justice and Transitional Justice Commission to be established under the Presidential Office to address historical injustices, with the Executive Yuan overseeing implementation and releasing annual progress reports. The commission will include representatives selected by each of Taiwan’s 16 tribes and the Pingpu ethnic group.
In December 2015 Tama Talum of the Bunun tribe received a three-and-a-half year prison sentence for possession of an illegal firearm and for hunting in violation of the Wildlife Conservation Act. The indigenous community and LAF defended Talum on the grounds that hunting was an integral part of tribal customs. On the day Talum was due to begin his prison term, Prosecutor-General Yen Da-ho filed an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court asserting that the original judgment violated the law by applying too narrow a legal interpretation. Talum remained free pending the result of appeal, and indigenous rights groups petitioned the Presidential Office for amnesty. In her public apology, President Tsai said relevant agencies would review cases that involve indigenous people indicted or sentenced for hunting.
Indigenous people participated in decisions affecting their land through the political process, which includes a quota in the legislature for indigenous participation. Six of the 113 seats in the legislature are reserved for indigenous tribal representatives elected by indigenous voters. In addition to these six legislators, the current Legislative Yuan has two indigenous legislators elected on proportional representation party lists.
The law stipulates that authorities and the private sector should consult with indigenous people and obtain their consent to and/or participation in, as well as share with them the benefits of, land development, resource utilization, ecology conservation, and academic research in indigenous areas. In January the Council of Indigenous Peoples announced regulations for obtaining consent: more than half of affected tribes should convene tribal meetings attended by at least half of tribal households, and more than half of the attendees should give their approval. Previous controversial hotel and resort projects in Taitung and the Sun Moon Lake are subject to the new regulations. In November agencies began to delineate and announce indigenous traditional territories and lands in accordance with the law, which passed in 2005.
Several indigenous groups, unsatisfied with President Tsai’s apology, staged protests outside the Presidential Office and called on authorities to grant the indigenous transitional justice commission investigative power.
Days after the president’s apology, the Forestry Bureau announced new rules that allow indigenous communities to apply to harvest plants within their traditional territories for traditional use, including in 12 rare woods protected under the Forestry Act and the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Activists for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights said discrimination against LGBTI individuals was more widespread than suggested by the number of court cases, due to victims’ reluctance to lodge formal complaints. Reported instances of violence against LGBTI individuals were rare, and the police response was adequate. Advocacy groups were unable to collect reliable statistics on violence targeting LGBTI individuals because the law does not define hate crime, so police do not use that category to disaggregate cases. LGBTI rights activists said the inability of unmarried persons to obtain fertility treatments and adopt children resulted in discrimination against LGBTI persons. The Center for Disease Control operated LGBTI awareness and assistance centers in Taipei, New Taipei City, Taoyuan, Hsinchu, Miaoli, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung that offer services including counseling and free HIV testing.
The law stipulates that employers cannot discriminate against job seekers on the basis of sexual orientation and also prohibits schools from discriminating against students on the basis of their gender temperament, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
Although same-sex marriage is not legal, as of November all of Taiwan’s six special municipalities–Kaohsiung, Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, New Taipei City, and Taoyuan– as well as Chiayi City, Chiayi County, Changhua County, Hsinchu County, and Yilan County began issuing household registrations to same-sex partners. This registration enables same-sex individuals to consent to medical procedures on their partner’s behalf and apply for public welfare allowances. The central authorities did not recognize these registrations, but the cities of Taipei, Kaohsiung, Tainan, and Taichung mutually recognized registrations issued in another city. The registration does not appear on ID cards or in central household registration documents and does not entitle same-sex couples to all rights associated with marriage, such as inheritance.
In August the administration announced the appointment of Taiwan’s first-ever transgender cabinet member, Audrey Tang, as minister without portfolio in charge of digital policy.
Transgender activists expressed concern about the requirement to undergo gender reassignment surgery in order to change one’s legal gender. Although the Ministry of Interior announced in 2014 that it would terminate this requirement, it had not done so as of September.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
The law prohibits potential employers from requesting health examination reports from job candidates to prove they do not have HIV or other communicable diseases. There was reported discrimination, including employment discrimination, against persons with HIV/AIDS (see section 7.d.).
In August President Tsai and Premier Lin Chuan voiced support for an HIV-positive student who had sought compensation and an apology since his expulsion from the National Defense University in 2013, six months before his graduation. During an August cabinet meeting, the premier instructed the defense ministry to issue an education equivalency certificate to the student and drop its plan to make the student reimburse NT$800,000 ($25,280) in tuition costs covered by the university.