Gender News in Taiwan
Fu Jen Lifts Controversial Curfew Following Protests

【By Abraham Gerber】

Fu Jen Catholic University yesterday lifted a curfew on female students staying at the school’s dormitory following days of protests by students.

The school board voted 90 to 51 to grant female students entry to the girls’ dormitory with an electronic card system, while unanimously deciding to eliminate penalties for students who stay out past midnight.

It also unanimously voted to allow students to elect their own dorm officials for the first time, while promising a review of the role of dorm matrons.

“Thank you everyone. I will take good care of myself,” university student association chairwoman Liao Yu-wen said, sitting in a wheelchair following a four-day hunger strike. “I still feel that human rights and gender equality are not something that should be voted on, but we have achieved our goal.”

“We never expected to win total curfew elimination and when we went to participate in the board meeting, we actually did not want to vote, because we thought the resolution would never pass,” student campaigner Huang Tai-li said. “The school board’s decision shows that our demands reflected truly universal values.”

With only 20 student representatives on the school board, the motion was passed with the unexpected support of teachers and staff, she said.

According to the curfew, dubbed the “Cinderella curfew” by students, female students who returned to dorms after midnight were penalized with mandatory work, with repeat offenders forfeiting the right to participate in drawings for dormitory rooms.

Campaigners said that the rules were sexist, because they only applied to female students, leading protests on campus and outside the Ministry of Education, with Liao and two other students going on a hunger strike.

Huang said that a petition against the curfew received more than 6,000 signatures, comprising more than a fifth of the school’s students.

“The nuns’ previous method of caring for students was not something that most students felt was unsuitable,” university dean Chiang Han-sheng said. “We have passed resolutions to make adjustments to the management methods that students disagreed with.”

He said that the dormitories under construction would aim to provide students with sufficient study rooms and shopping options to reduce the need for them to stay out late.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Feminist Scholars Association and the Awakening Foundation released a joint statement calling for the Ministry of Education to proactively review whether other universities had sexist dorm management rules.

Placing curfews only for female students demonstrates persistent paternal attitudes and stereotypes, especially the idea that women need more protection than men, the statement said, adding that the practice aims to help schools avoid responsibility for accidents that might happen outside of the dorms after curfew.

[Taipei Times, 2016-06-03]

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