A surge of charges of sexual harassment and assault is roiling Taiwan, and many believe that a local MeToo movement was inspired by a Netflix series.
Over 90 people have accused people all over the island in the last two weeks.
Politics and the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), where several top officials have resigned, were initially at the core of the claims.
However, there are now allegations against doctors, academics, sports umpires, and YouTubers as they have expanded throughout Taiwanese culture.
A think tank researcher accused a Polish diplomat of sexual assault on Saturday.
In a Taiwanese society that is often praised for its progressive politics and dedication to gender equality, the time is long overdue for many women.
Taiwan sees MeToo wave of allegations after Netflix show
The island’s first female president, Tsai Ing-wen, has expressed regret and promised reform.
Social analyst Dr. Liu Wen from Taiwan’s Sinica Academia told the BBC, “Previously, we had isolated cases of sexual harassment, but never to this extent.”
“A lot of the underlying problems in various industries are being revealed all at once for the first time,”
One woman in her 30s told the BBC that after being sexually harassed by her boss, a well-known environmental campaigner, she felt the urge to pursue justice once more.
Ms. Tseng, as she prefers to be called, claimed that when she initially requested justice last year, she was stonewalled and rejected.
However, the workplace and the activist both apologized to her after she spoke out online last week. Along with his resignation, he expressed regret for some of his actions. Meanwhile, messages from other women flooded her inbox with complaints about him.
The first round of accusations is said to have been started by a local TV drama. Wave Makers, a Netflix original series about Taiwanese political employees preparing for an election, made its debut in late April.
A young female assistant is alone with her instructor, a party spokeswoman and the primary character of the show, in a now-iconic scene.
Does she have the guts to tell anyone about the harassment she suffered at the hands of a male colleague, knowing that a public revelation would damage the party’s reputation and maybe her own career?
She chooses to share with her. The older woman decided to assist after listening.
She dismisses the worries of one of her staff members, saying, “Let’s not just let this go, okay?” ” We cannot allow things to end so quickly. Otherwise, we’ll deteriorate and perish.
This scene has been cited as the MeToo moment that is currently sweeping Taiwan.
An ex-DPP employee published an essay on Facebook on May 31 that was similar to the programme.
Chen Chiemn-jou wrote, “Let’s not just let this go,” before she described her encounter with sexual harassment at a professional gathering.
She claimed that after she reported the incident, her female supervisor, who was in charge of the party’s women’s issues, questioned her, “Why didn’t you say anything?” before telling her to lie about it.
A wave of allegations
Since then, Chen’s message has ignited Taiwan and received thousands of shares. It appears to have inspired others in politics to report their encounters with harassment and the responses of the authorities.
Following Chen’s accusation, a second former DPP employee claimed that her male supervisor had verbally abused her and obstructed her attempts to report the harassment of a different male employee.
A number of senior DPP officials have left, including Yen Chih-fa, the president’s adviser who has disputed allegations of sexual harassment by a campaigner, and Hsu Chia-tien, the supervisor in Chen’s case who was suspended by the party. The BBC has reached out to Yen and Hsu for comment on the allegations, but neither has answered.
Accusations have also been levelled against the opposition KMT party. A journalist claimed last week that KMT lawmaker Fu Kun-chi had forcibly kissed her at a news conference in 2014; Fu disputed the claim. He repeated his public denial to the BBC, claiming he had never harassed any women or subordinates sexually.
A well-known media figure is accused of harassing a KMT councillor, who later apologised for his actions and said he was too inebriated to remember what happened on the night in question.
Currently, a crowdsourced online database has information on more than 90 incidents. Men in the public eye who have been accused include:
Tiananmen protest leader Wang Dan: Wang Dan, a former student leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations in China, is an exiled political activist.
He has debunked the sexual assault allegations made by two younger men. On June 7, one of those guys, Lee Yuan-chun, filed a lawsuit alleging an alleged 2014 attempt at rape by Wang in a hotel room.
In order to pursue the matter, Wang has resigned from his employment as a professor and announced he will travel back to Taiwan from the US.
Exiled poet Bei Ling: On June 2, one of the Wave Makers show’s writers, Chien Li-ying, accused the celebrated poet of sexual assault. She claimed that at his house, he had kissed and grabbed her. He referred to her story as “fabricated” and claimed to have a different memory of their first encounter, which he said occurred after a month of dating.
Polish diplomat Bartosz Ry: Taiwanese think tank researcher Lai Yu-fen accused him of sexual assault on June 10; nevertheless, prosecutors looked into the claim and decided not to press charges. Mr. Ry addressed the accusations on Twitter with a denial. He said that prosecutors had dismissed the case because they found the accusations to be unfounded.
Mr. Ry left Taiwan in November 2022, so the BBC was unable to reach him directly. The Taiwanese government and Poland’s Taipei office cooperated in the case last year, according to the Taipei office, and “Mr. Ry left Taiwan once the matter was clarified.” “Against any form of harassment,” it declared.
What has the reaction been?
In comparison to its neighbouring China, where Beijing has encouraged conventional gender norms and put pressure on women to have more children, gender equality in Taiwan had previously been seen as a source of pride.
In China, there are no women in positions of senior political leadership, although Taiwan has had a female president for almost ten years. Taiwan’s parliament has a 43% female representation rate, which is significantly higher than the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s estimate of a 29% global average.
In response to the accusations, President Tsai has apologised twice for her party’s shortcomings.
Last week, she said that people who had come forward with stories of sexual harassment were innocent bystanders, not troublemakers, and she thanked them for sharing their stories. We as a society must re-educate ourselves, she remarked.
A pivotal time in Taiwanese politics has led to the MeToo moment. The island is preparing for a presidential election in January, just like on the television show.
The DPP chairman and candidate for the January elections, William Lai, issued an apology and directed the party to change how it handles sexual assault complaints the day after the initial staff member’s Facebook post.
He stated, quoting the Wave Makers TV show, “We won’t just let it go like this.” He has suggested strengthening sexual harassment legislation and launching a formal investigation into the allegations.
The writers of the show said they never anticipated such a strong response from the general public. They expressed their aim to the BBC, saying they hoped “people can find a shared language to express their expectations of how such issues should be handled through idealised depictions of addressing workplace harassment in drama.”
One of the authors of Wave Makers, Chien Li-ying, claimed that while she was an undergraduate, poet Bei Ling molested her.
Observers assert that there is unquestionably a reckoning in progress and that Taiwan is at a pivotal point in tackling gender and sexual abuse.
Many survivors, however, are going through a difficult time as they are thrust into distressing public discourse. Many people have doubts about claims of long-lasting change.
Ms. Tseng, the woman who received an apology last week, is appreciative that the TV programme started the discussion.
She claims that crucial sequence, where she was supported and validated rather than silenced, still seems like a fantasy.
“While watching the show, I felt a strong connection, but I don’t have a supportive supervisor like the ones portrayed on television who fight for justice,” the woman stated.
The female party leader in the dramatisation finally apologises and advises the victims to wait until she catches up with their quest for justice. I’m not sure if Taiwanese society is ready to completely accept the #MeToo movement, though.