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New Military Opportunities for Taiwanese Women Provide Glimpse into Gender Equality in Taiwan

Written by: Vaishnavi Peyyety, Current Events Staff Writer

Taiwanese woman in military training. (Photo Courtesy Military News Agency)
A democratic island, Taiwan, is now allowing women to volunteer for the military reserve force in response to Chinese military pressure. Starting in April, the Taiwanese Defense Ministry will allow 220 female soldiers to begin training. This is a temporary change, as Major General Yu Wen-cheng from the ministry states this is a “trial” that will run for a year. Previously, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry claimed they trained only male individuals due to insufficient resources to integrate male and female soldiers. This gender discrimination has led Taiwanese lawmakers to push the start of female reserve training. As reported by the CIA World Factbook, Taiwan’s military force consists of 170,000 personnel and they train 120,000 reservists annually. Previously, women mainly served in non-combat roles, making up 15 percent of Taiwan’s military.

“Taiwan’s Defense Ministry claimed they trained only male individuals due to insufficient resources to integrate male and female soldiers.
Interestingly, even though Taiwan is very highly ranked in terms of gender equality, women continue to experience discrimination in the workplace and beyond. For several decades, feminist movements in Taiwan have brought about much-needed change. The first female president was elected in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Furthermore, women make up almost 40 percent of elected government officials. According to the United Nations Development Program’s Gender Inequality Index, Taiwan had the highest rank in gender equality in East Asia and is number six in the entire world. Nevertheless, women continue to experience harassment and prejudice as seen through job segregation. Even though overall female employment has increased, women are almost forced into low-income sales and clerical jobs. Almost 90 percent of cases of workplace harassment were filed by women and around 50 percent were filed against bosses, according to the Modern Women’s Foundation. Sadly, nearly half of all Taiwanese women have endured sexual harassment in the workplace.
Taiwan had the highest rank in gender equality in East Asia and is number six in the entire world. Nevertheless, women continue to experience harassment and prejudice as seen through job segregation.
First Taiwanese all-female artillery.( Photo Courtesy Military News Agency)

A web survey by PollcracyLab at National Chengchi University’s Election Study Center asked questions related to public perception of gender discrimination in Taiwan, given the increasing usage of social media. Six hundred and forty respondents were questioned about whether they believe gender discrimination is commonplace in Taiwan. Around half of the participants agreed with this statement. Interestingly, 56.97 percent of women and 46.6 percent of men agreed with this statement.

It is important to note that past research has shown that women may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed when reporting discriminatory behavior which may have led to underreporting in this survey. Additionally, it is unclear what exactly defines discrimination. Some may perceive this as overt sexual harassment while others may believe it includes non-sexual workplace discrimination. Studies have found that men may define gender discrimination more broadly than women. Furthermore, this study explored the potential correlation between experiencing gender discrimination and believing it to be commonplace. The statistics suggest that people may pay attention to or ignore discrimination depending on previous experiences. In summary, this research suggests that Taiwan can improve in terms of education on what may constitute harassment as laws can only prevent discrimination to a certain extent. It is important that perpetrators are unable to re-offend as well.

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