Monday, September 4, 2017

What is one rape worth?

A harsh question, but here's the problem.

According to Focus Taiwan, new laws meant to strengthen protections for foreign workers include provisions punishing labor agents and employers (such as the people who employ home aides to care for their elderly parents) who sexually assault, abuse or traffic foreign workers:

In addition, the official said, if a labor agent is found guilty of sexually abusing, sexually harassing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, a fine of NT$300,000-NT$1.5 million will be handed down and the individual banned from working as a labor agent.

That's a start, though I'm not convinced the fine is high enough. The article doesn't make it clear, there are also laws that carry prison sentences already on the books. 

But then there's this: 

If employers or care recipients are found guilty of sexually abusing or engaging in the trafficking of foreign workers, they will be ineligible to employ such workers for 2-5 years, and repeat offenders will be ineligible for life.

Emphasis mine, because excuse me?

There are surely also sexual assault laws that would see any one of these employers go to prison if convicted which are not mentioned in this article, but how is it that someone convicted of sexually abusing or trafficking a foreign worker might be allowed to employ another one in the future?

How is it that one assault is not enough to see them not only pay their debt to society in terms of jail time, but also be banned for life from hiring foreign workers?

How about one rape? Is it somehow more acceptable to sexually abuse than to rape, or do they face the same weak penalty?

Remember, almost - but not all - of the foreign workers whom this law would specifically protect are women who work in homes as domestic helpers and home health aides. It is already a very personal situation, to live in someone's home as their employee. Do the people drafting these new protections really think that someone who has abused such a worker should be allowed to bring another into his (or her) home?

Is there really a calculus for this? One assault isn't enough, that was just one rape you guys, five whole years ago! We should totally trust this guy to hire another worker in the same situation because come on bro, statistics surely don't show that rapists are likely to be repeat offenders, right?

Oh, they actually are?


According to foreign labor regulations, raping one woman is not enough, but two...well, two rapes means something. Authorities apparently can't do anything to prevent that second woman from being raped, because to them it's not a real problem until it happens twice.

So rapists are like children who are put in the time-out chair for stealing cookies?

Seriously, though. We obviously can't repeatedly punish the same crime - you serve your sentence, and you get another chance. That's how it works - but that doesn't mean criminals should have a totally clean slate. I support giving ex-convicts work and allowing them to live more or less normally, but I would not give a convicted thief or embezzler a job in a bank or finance company. I would not give a rapist, child abuser, child pornographer or pedophile a job in a school. I would not give an arsonist a job at a gas station and I certainly would not let a murderer work in a gun store. I wouldn't even let a Taiwanese fishing boat operator convicted of forcing his foreign employees to work without pay - which does happen - hire them to work on a fishing boat again.

It follows that a convicted rapist, especially one who likely specifically raped a woman living in his home who was under his employ, should be barred from bringing another woman into his home, under his employ.

How is it that one rape is not enough to make that official?

It's not even as difficult as when to bar an ex-convict from a certain type of work: it's barring someone from employing someone else for in-home services. This shouldn't be difficult.

I have to ask. are the women these one-time-rapists allowed to hire going to be told of their new employer's history? Will they have any way of knowing they are being hired by someone who was once convicted of raping someone just like them, under the same circumstances? I doubt it.

If only this were surprising: this is the same country where an Indonesian domestic worker taped herself being raped after none of the authorities she spoke to took action - her brokerage firm even saying "do what you want" (as though it were consensual!), "just don't get pregnant." She later tried to commit suicide - she'd been raped so often that authorities could not determine how many times it was. That same story was picked up by Liberty Times who made it all about how this was such a loss of face for Taiwan, rather than about what the woman had suffered and bringing her rapist employer to justice. Reporting elsewhere on this incident was hardly better, with much of the focus of the story being on the woman's "emotional irritability" and "extreme instability", which apparently made it hard for police to get a full statement.

Of course she'd be extremely irritable and emotional after not only having been raped repeatedly, but also treated dismissively by the brokerage firm. How many rapes did it take for her to be able to make that video and finally, slowly, start to seek justice? How bad was it, that she tried to kill herself? And yet, the press makes it all about Taiwan, almost implying that her "emotional instability" was part of the problem when the case came to light.

What if she'd been raped once, and hadn't made that video, because nobody expects to be raped by their employer?

Would that have been enough, or would one rape not be worth the currency needed to get the attention of authorities.

Would her rapist be allowed to hire another Indonesian care worker after a few years, bringing them into the same situation, if he'd only raped her once?

How can anyone think such an attitude is acceptable?

As much as I tout Taiwan as being ahead of the curve when it comes to women's rights and women's equality in Asia, we still have a long way to go, including - perhaps especially - in the way society treats foreign female labor.

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