Although women’s rights in Taiwan are much more progressive than most neighboring Asian countries, one might be surprised to see how far behind Taiwan is when compared to Western countries. Even a tourists casual observations will reveal that law and cultural norms fail to support single mothers, end prostitution, prosecute rape, give women any sense of independence, or give girls realistic beauty standards.
Western mothers can usually force the father of their children to pay “child support” if they do not raise the kids together, however, there is no such system in Taiwan. If this issue is not addressed in a prenuptial agreement, then mothers have no legal leverage. A woman who accidentally gets pregnant outside of a marriage must either terminate her pregnancy or raise the child on her own. This encourages Taiwanese men to practice unsafe sex, as they are not legally responsible for the consequences.
Although it is technically illegal, prostitution is seldom prosecuted in Taiwan. Policemen, rather than working to close brothels, are some of the top patrons. Paying for sex is even a common business practice, as visiting brothels with male clients is a normal part of doing business in Taiwan.
Rape has a very narrow definition in Taiwan. Violent rape and dropping Rohypnol in a woman’s drink may be prosecuted if the victim comes forward, but what we call “date rape” is hardly even frowned upon. If she cannot refuse because she is intoxicated or threatened, it is considered her fault for being in the situation. Taiwanese women are held responsible for their own victimization.
Since girls from a young age are explicitly and inexplicitly taught to always obey men many have difficulty demanding respect for themselves and their bodies. As a result, many Taiwanese girls lack the confidence to even refuse sex or insist their partner use a condom. “Nice women” are expected to do what they are told.
It is true that women in the West are held to unrealistic beauty standards, but in Taiwan these standards are even more militant. Young women constantly receive criticism, even from boyfriends, husbands and fathers, about their appearance. It is even acceptable for men to publicly make comments like “you are too fat and I am embarrassed to be seen in public with you”. As a result, anorexia is not commonly recognized as an illness. Anorexic girls are considered to be well disciplined and beautiful, regardless of the adverse health effects.
Equal rights for women do not occur overnight in any culture, but this is little consolation for the current generation of women who are living in misogynistic cultures. All in all, Taiwan has a long way to go before Taiwanese women’s rights catch up with those of women in the West.