Taiwan’s new sexual harassment laws are being seen a first step in addressing its MeToo reckoning, but activists say they still fall short in several areas.
The ruling Democratic Progressive Party raced to toughen laws after it was hit by a wave of sexual assault claims.
These prompted several resignations from the party and sparked further allegations against other powerful figures, including celebrities.
The legal amendments come five months ahead of a critical election.
Law professor Carol Lin praised the changes as a legislative milestone but said it will take time for society to shed entrenched mindsets that normalise sexual harassment.
Although Taiwan has long been hailed as a progressive democracy, much of its society remains deeply patriarchal and hierarchical.
The new laws passed in a special legislative session require all workplaces – including previously exempt small businesses with at least 10 employees- to set up channels for reporting sexual harassment.
Employers must also investigate all sexual harassment complaints and report their findings to local labour authorities, and those who fail to do so, can be fined up to 1m New Taiwan dollars ($31,700).
Before now, alleged victims had no recourse apart from court trials.
Under the new laws, the use of discriminatory or insulting language against someone on account of their gender, as well as acts that punish others professionally for rejecting one’s advances will be considered sexual harassment.
The statute of limitations has also been extended.
Taiwan’s former Labour Minister Wang Ju-hsuan, however said the amendments still do not give victims proper recourse in cases where the harassment happens outside the workplace.
The new laws also apply to schools.
Educators are now explicitly banned from having romantic relationships with students under the age of 18, while teachers and principals who fail to report student complaints of harassment to the Ministry of Education are liable to be fined.
Netflix hit Wave Makers has been credited as the inspiration for the movement.
The series, which was about Taiwanese political staffers working on an election, included a pivotal scene where a party spokeswoman decided to act on a female staffer’s complaint about being sexually harassed by a colleague, even though the revelation could be damaging to the party.
This prompted many Taiwanese with similar experiences to step forward.
But the reckoning has also stirred a backlash, with many people questioning the alleged victims’ motives.