Cabinet approves draft bill against stalking, harassment

Taipei-The Cabinet on Thursday passed a draft bill aimed at broadening the legal definition of stalking and harassment and allowing early intervention by law enforcement officers to protect victims.

The bill, which also seeks to significantly increase the penalties for those offenses, was approved by the Cabinet two weeks after a woman in Pingtung County was murdered by a man who had been stalking and harassing her for about two months.

According to the bill, the police will have the right to issue a written warning to a stalker or someone accused of harassment, once the victim's report can be corroborated.

If the accused disregards the police warning, the victim, police or prosecutors can seek a restraining order from the court, the bill states. Currently, restraining orders are issued only in cases of harassment or violence within a family or between couples.

Under the draft bill, the maximum penalty for stalking and/or harassment is five years in prison or a fine of NT$500,000 (US$17,667), and it allows preventive detention if the offender is deemed a likely recidivist.

Currently, the maximum penalty for stalking is a fine of less than NT$3,000, under the Social Order Maintenance Act.

According to the new bill approved by the Cabinet, there are eight types of behaviors that constitute stalking and harassment, if those actions scare people or negatively impact their lives.

It broadens the definitions specified in both the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act and Domestic Violence Prevention Act and makes them applicable in almost any situation, not just in a home, workplace, or school.

In particular, the definition of harassment has been extended to include making unwanted advances on someone, under the draft bill.

After a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Minister without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (???) said the draft legislation reflected the government's resolve to combat stalking and harassment.

Lo, who is also the Cabinet's spokesperson, cited Premier Su Cheng-chang (???) as saying that stalking and harassment are two serious forms of sexual violence, perpetrated mainly by men against women.

The draft legislation, if passed by the Legislature, will give greater protection to women, Su said, according to Lo.

The Cabinet said the bill draws on relevant laws in other countries and on the views of women's rights groups and legislators in Taiwan.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel