Friday, 24 September 2010

Women in Taiwan Politics

sadly, my comment piece commissioned by Taiwan Today was heavily censored by GIO editors to become a fluff piece stating how good things are in taiwan and how well the ruling party is doing:

State of play: Women’s political representation in Taiwan
•Publication Date:09/24/2010
•Source: Taiwan Today
•By Mark Caltonhill

Taiwan’s upcoming year-end three-in-one municipal elections are poised to show the world that when it comes to integrating gender equality with democracy building, the country stands shoulder to shoulder with other progressive nations on this important issue.

With three female candidates having a strong chance of success in the contests, which are set to take place Nov. 27 in Taipei City and four other newly upgraded special municipalities—Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan and Xinbei— now is a good time to examine the political representation of women and, through that, to take a look at Taiwan’s overall democratic health.

Of the candidates, Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu of the Democratic Progressive Party is the most likely to succeed. Chen’s political career goes back to Taiwan’s martial law era and includes a six-year jail stint for participation in the Kaohsiung Incident.

In comparison, Tsai Ing-wen, DPP mayoral candidate for Xinbei City, is a relative newcomer. She only joined the party in 2004, having served in the DPP-led government since 2000 and advising the Kuomintang administration as early as 1993. Nevertheless, in 2008 she was elected as DPP chairperson, the first woman to lead a major political party. Previously, Tsai followed an academic career after studying law.

Former Vice President Annette Lu, Taiwan’s highest-ranking female politician to date, has a background that combines features of those of Chen and Tsai. The daughter of a small businessman, she progressed from an academic and legal background to found Taiwan’s modern feminist movement in the 1970s.

This accomplishment is noteworthy as Lu’s efforts came at a time when women’s organizations were largely a matter of patronage of former first lady Soong May-ling and the KMT. Not surprisingly, this brought her into conflict with the authorities, drew her into opposition politics, and put her in prison alongside Chen.

But of greater relevance to the current overview of Taiwan’s democratic health is that Chen, Tsai and Lu have risen to the top of the political heap, occupying positions of power and influence that are felt in many sections of society. Their achievements are a testament to the strength of Taiwanese culture that tends to acknowledge and reward competency and performance irrespective of gender.

But the success of women in Taiwan’s political circles is not limited to the DPP. Politicians from the KMT such as Christina Y. Liu, who joined the Cabinet in July as head of the Cabinet-level Council for Economic Planning and Development, and Janice Seh-jen Lai, director-general of the Tourism Brureau under the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, have garnered headlines for all the right reasons while performing their duties both at home and abroad.

Huang Chao-shun, the KMT candidate in Kaohsiung, is said to be another star in the making, and like Liu, has politics in her blood. Huang is the daughter of Huang Tsun-chiu, a former Control Yuan president, while Liu is the daughter of Kuo Wan-jung, Taiwan’s first female minister of finance.

Another female KMT politician making headlines over the past year is Lee Yong-ping, who recently resigned as Taipei City Deputy Mayor. Her background is unusual in having been a member of the DPP, People First Party and KMT.

With a record number of women currently serving in the Cabinet, statistics reveal the ROC ahead of the international curve. Eight women, or 20 percent, currently serve in the Cabinet, and 34 female legislators, or 30 percent, were elected in 2008. This compares with the worldwide average of 16 percent and close to 17 percent and 22 percent for the U.S. Congress and U.K. Parliament, respectively.

This above-average performance is due in part to provision in the ROC Constitution for quotas of female representatives. Following an amendment in 2005, women are guaranteed at least 50 percent of each party’s legislator-at-large positions, of which there are 34 out of a total 113 seats.

Hopefully, as the 2012 legislative and presidential elections draw nearer, the KMT and DPP will broaden their nets to promote more female politicians. This will enrich the electoral process and continue transforming relations between men and women by promoting the equal distribution of power and influence between the sexes.

Finally, with regard to women’s participation, perhaps some initiatives for family-friendly practices in the Legislature—such as sitting during school semesters and office hours—will allow women to have political careers without sacrificing the right to marriage and children. Such a change will undoubtedly be a boon to Taiwan’s overall democratic health.

Mark Caltonhill is a U.K.-based freelance writer. These views are the author’s and not necessarily those of Taiwan Today. Copyright  2010 by Mark Caltonhill

new poem




[Chinese is 'original'; but here is an English version

On Being Fifty

I remember being ten
looking ten
acting ten
playing ten
relating to people as a ten year old.

I have carefully counted the years since then
which must make me 50 now.