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HomeWorld NewsTaiwan Grapples with Sexual Harassment Surge Triggered by Netflix Drama

Taiwan Grapples with Sexual Harassment Surge Triggered by Netflix Drama

Taiwanese Women Share Stories of Harassment and Assault

Taipei, Taiwan – Over the past month, Taiwan has witnessed a surge in the number of individuals, predominantly women, who have taken to social media to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The catalyst for this outpouring of stories was a popular Netflix series.

Incidents Spanning Different Spheres

The accounts of harassment and assault include incidents that occurred both recently and over a decade ago, involving men from various domains such as politics, the arts, academia, and even foreign diplomatic circles.

Culture of Subtle Misogyny

Many individuals have also voiced their grievances regarding the prevalent culture of subtle misogyny in schools and workplaces. They have expressed discomfort over unwelcome comments made by male peers and colleagues about themselves and other women.

Long-Awaited Reckoning

Taiwan’s response to sexual harassment and assault has been a long time coming, nearly six years after the global #MeToo movement gained traction. While Taiwan had witnessed some notable incidents during its initial encounter with #MeToo, such as the tragic case of writer Lin Yi-han, who took her own life after sharing her experiences of assault, the movement had not gained significant momentum until now.

Netflix Drama Inspires Women to Act

The Taiwanese Netflix drama “Wave Makers” served as a source of inspiration for women to come forward and share their stories. The series revolves around two women working to hold a male colleague accountable for sexual harassment, loosely based on real-life events involving writer Chien Li-ying, who alleges harassment by exiled Chinese writer Bei Ling. Bei Ling has denied the allegations.

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Realism Strikes a Chord

The realistic portrayal of events in “Wave Makers” has resonated with viewers since its release on April 28. Just over a month later, the first wave of accusations emerged, beginning with two party workers accusing their colleagues in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Accusations also extended to Chinese dissident Wang Dan and several men connected to Taiwan’s elite.

Increased Scrutiny Ahead of Elections

The timing of these reports coincides with Taiwan’s upcoming presidential election, resulting in heightened scrutiny of political parties. Allegations have surfaced against members of the DPP, the main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), and the smaller New Power Party. Former Taipei mayor Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People’s Party has also faced allegations of making sexist comments.

Diplomatic Circles Affected

Accusations have even shaken Taipei’s diplomatic circles, as a Taiwanese woman publicly accused a Polish diplomat, Bartosz Rys, of sexual assault. The diplomat dismissed the woman’s complaint, claiming it was financially motivated.

Surprising Wave of Accusations

The wave of accusations has caught many, including those familiar with Taiwan’s gender politics, off guard. Ting-yu Kang, an associate professor at National Chengchi University who researches gender and media, expressed her surprise at the sudden surge in #MeToo stories in Taiwan.

Challenges Faced by Victims

Despite Taiwan’s relatively positive image regarding gender relations, there are still significant challenges faced by victims of sexual harassment. Social pressure to remain silent, difficulties in gathering evidence, statutes of limitations, and stringent libel laws pose obstacles to legal and civil prosecution.

Long-Standing Efforts Against Harassment

While the Netflix drama may have played a role in the recent surge of accusations, lawyer Audrey Lu dismisses the notion that it was solely responsible. She emphasizes that this movement is the culmination of the continuous efforts of both men and women over generations to combat sexual harassment and assault.

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