Sunday, May 29, 2011

Some thoughts on women and justice in Taiwan

A thought.

The news-storm brewing for months that surrounds the reopened case of Jiang Guoqing (also spelled Chiang Kuo-ching), who (for those not in Taiwan who haven't heard this already) was tortured to confess to, convicted of and quickly executed for rape in 1996, a conviction/execution now believed to have been wrongfully carried out does not just raise questions about the justice system, methods used to extract confessions or wrongful conviction for sex offenders. It also raises questions about women's rights.

As does this disturbing tale, published on The View from Taiwan, which sort of gelled it all together in my brain (mmm, gelled brain) last night.

If Taiwan, or any nation's justice system for that matter, lacks the basic competence to apprehend, try and convict the right person in a rape or sex offense case, that's bad for not just the families of those wrongfully convicted or for the victims of wrongful execution (although of course it is also tragic for them), but also bad for women and girls. Anyone who is the victim of a sex offense, or the family member of someone killed during one, deserves the assurance that the system will do everything possible to bring the right person to justice. If someone can commit a rape and then watch another person executed for it, and this can go un-investigated for over a decade, how can any woman know that justice is on her side if she is the victim of a sex crime? How can she or her family know that, rather than bowing to pressure to solve a case quickly and thus extracting a forced confession, the investigators will do everything in their power to apprehend not just anyone but the actual person who committed the crime?

It leaves the tragedy of the crime against the woman unaddressed as well as allows the actual rapists, murderers and sex offenders to go free (and if the case gets enough publicity, allows future criminals to feel as though the gamble that they won't get caught is worth it).

Michael's story is equally disturbing - other than picking the girl up in the science park and bringing her home, there is nothing in his story to suggest that the police will actually apprehend Mr. Wang Yo (although there is also no evidence that they are not trying). There's the fact that after committing such a heinous crime, he still felt he could call her family to "apologize" (in all likelihood a subtle threat to them know that he knows how to find them) without repercussions - clearly a man with no fear of the justice system.

The treatment of the girl at school after the incident is even worse - this is not how one handles such cases. All this does is marginalize females even more. This is exactly the sort of behavior that creates a demented anti-woman society. The teacher that publicly humiliated the girl deserves to be fired, thrown in jail and forced to pay compensation, as well...and (s)he probably won't be made to suffer any of that.

This is not to say that fearing getting caught is necessarily a deterrent to rapists and other sex offenders. If it were, we'd probably have fewer sex crimes around the world. Clearly there will be people who will commit the crime regardless of the possible consequences. I can't help but think, though, that more of this occurs in places where being caught and made to suffer the consequences is not as likely.

It also says a lot regarding the state of sex education and real-world discussions among Taiwanese mothers and their daughters. The girl in this incident quite likely was not educated in the very real dangers of this sort of activity (although it is possible that she was, and chose to ignore her mother's words).

Despite the fact that sex education seems to be more open in Taiwan than in many parts of the USA - I have seen sexual safety advertisements on the TVs in the MRT here! - I hear stories in Taiwan that terrify me regarding the state of girls' sex education. Everything from "your mother doesn't mind that your older sister lives with her boyfriend? So she won't mind if your sister gets pregnant?" to "But if I use a tampon, I can't pee because the hole will be blocked" to the alarming state of naivete of a fourteen year old girl. That said, she had her friends are only fourteen and will have some degree of naivete and immaturity. I do feel, though, that their education in these matters could have been better.

Finally, a comment on Michael's post disturbs me almost as much as the story itself - one commenter said the man was blameless - "if someone wants to jump off a bridge, who can blame the bridge?" - while probably an expat, the fact that this kind of mindset, that a sick pervert is just an inert pawn in some naive little girl's plot to be molested, is really, truly horrifying. This is an attitude that can't be wiped off the face of the Earth fast enough, for the good of not just women, but for everyone.

I do still believe that Taiwan is a safe place for women and our daughters. I do believe that I am far safer here than I ever was living in Washington, DC (or even my small hometown). I do believe that Taiwan's generally low crime rate and generally greater respect for women's rights compared to the rest of Asia is not to be taken lightly. I would not fear raising a daughter in Taiwan.

4 comments:

Okami said...

I really think you are overlooking a very key point here and that is the face vs value culture.

The police don't need to catch the right guy, just some guy. Extracting confessions is the norm for Asia, check out what Japan does, it's called the Galapagos affect. Back in the day, law enforcement was a quota system that had to be met, imagine living with that. The police get paid the same whether they do their job or not. Brian Kennedy did a good article explaining the intricacies of how crime is managed in Taiwan by the police, wish I had the link.

As far as sex crimes, the police just don't care unless they have to. I knew a lady who went into the police station bleeding, bruised and messed up. The cops ignored her till she contacted her family and her govt. She got the rape kit done on her own from a hospital. The guy had done some heinous shit before and he got busted on that, but you saw nothing in the newspaper about him raping a foreign women thanks to our friendly GIO.

In "Living Rooms as Factories" The feminist author expresses shock when she learns one family allows their son to have sex at the family home with his girlfriend, because as the lady tells her. A pregnant bride costs less. This was in the mid to early 80's I believe.

In a face culture as long as you deny or don't say anything you aren't guilty. It pays to do nothing and ignore trouble because doing something and failing looks worse the majority of the time to make it the safer bet. I go round and around with my wife on this.

Mr. Wang yo sounds like a pro. I wonder how many other girls he has managed to get. Fake license plates, no pics, calling the mom, I bet he has the profile of a serial sex offender.

Jenna said...

Um...sorry Okami but that was **the entire point of this post**. Yes, the authorities think they don't need to catch the right guy (the idea that they really don't need to is, of course, ridiculous even if that's how it often works) and yes, it can be hard to get the authorities even interested in pursuing some cases.

But THAT'S THE POINT - this is the grave injustice to women. If the authorities think it's enough to catch any guy, not THE guy, that is not just a tragedy for the innocent man they catch (who, as Jiang Guoqing's legacy can attest, may well end up dead for a crime he didn't commit)...it's a tragedy for women and children.

And yeah, sorry, but that really was the entire point of the post...so it's kind of ludicrous that you think I'm overlooking it.

Okami said...

I think we are talking past each other. You wrote what you wanted to say and I read something different. I apologize.

From a qinglifa* perspective it makes sense. 1-The guy had probably done something else and this was a handy pretense to get rid of him. The victim in some cases can be made pliable to believing it was the wrong person and the cops will be more than happy to pressure her into believing it. 2-Besides they're women, pretty much useless on the Confucian scale outside of making sons. So if nothing was done, nothing was done about nothing.

We look at it from a rule of law perspective(faliqing). Asians play a good game of westernization, but at the end of the day they are going to go back on the culture and traditions of their glorious 5,000 year old culture.

*Tigerman did a great post breaking it down on forumosa.

Jenna said...

But something was done...the girl, as far as I understand from the news (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) the girl was raped and killed - just not by him - and he was set up by other people who, by getting rid of him, stood to benefit.

I don't think things for women are so dire as "5,000 years of culture" would imply, and I actually find Taiwan to be just as influenced by Daoism as Confucianism (Daoism being a much friendlier belief system for women). I do think things are changing and I do think that Taiwanese women benefit from it in ways that their peers in other Asian countries do not.

My whole point is that things are better for women in Taiwan than in other parts of Asia and certainly better than they used to be, but the Jiang Guoqing case and Michael's story about Wang Yo show how much more there is to be done and how throwing up our arms and saying "can't change 5,000 years of culture" is not an acceptable response. I may not be a Taiwanese woman, but I am a woman who lives in Taiwan and I for one am not going to sit back and accept "oh, it's the culture, can't change it" and I am proud to see many active women's groups in Taiwan with a similar mindset.