Interview | More needs to be done for gender equality: Yu Mei-nu

Yu Mei-nu waves at same-sex marriage supporters in May, 2019. (Courtesy of Yu Mei-nu)
Yu Mei-nu waves at same-sex marriage supporters in May, 2019. (Courtesy of Yu Mei-nu)

TAIPEI (The China Post/ANN) — Dubbed by many as the “goddess of the same-sex marriage movement,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) bids farewell to the parliament, in which she fought relentlessly for many whose voices were little heard.

In the eight years since she was first elected, Yu had witnessed the Sunflower Movement and the aftermath of the death of corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), both of which had long-lasting effects on the country’s politics, and made history as the times where students became the backbone of democratic movements.

While being a stern supporter of modern values, Yu made herself known nationwide because of her efforts to push forward the passage of same-sex marriage, a move that would later see Taiwan making international headlines as the first country in Asia to approve gay marriage by law.

Yu Mei-nu is swarmed by police officers in April, 2019. (Courtesy of Justin Hsieh)
Yu Mei-nu is swarmed by police officers in April, 2019. (Courtesy of Justin Hsieh)

In perhaps one of the most symbolic moments of her legislative tenure, Yu smiled as she walked through a colorful parade of gay marriage supporters outside the parliament, swarmed by police officers.

Highly fashionable with her a short, dark bob and an iconic lock of purple highlight, Yu regards herself as a human-rights lawyer and a fighter for women’s rights.

“Gender, human rights, and judicial reform are my cause,” she wrote in her farewell note.

Still Room for Improvement in Gender Equality

When the newest batch of legislators convenes for the first time in February, the people of Taiwan will be represented by a parliament that is 42 percent female.

“The country overall is moving towards the right direction,” she said, yet there is so much more that need to be addressed.

Looking back, she sees the formation of the gender equality committee (性別平等委員會) in the parliament as an achievement, a move aimed to put gender equality into practice from within the highest agency of law in the country.

The committee set up a corner for gender quality literature at the library and a childcare center in the parliament.

However, members of the gender equality committee were often absent at committee meetings, she told The China Post.

The toughest part in the years of the fight for gender equality was to root up old concepts and “change perspective,” she said.

It is especially difficult with the elders, Yu said, they are the ones “that need to be re-educated.”

In the last presidential election, politicians including Kaohsiung City Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜)and Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲)made comments that were widely viewed as misogynistic.

Regarding misogynistic comments made by politicians during the elections, including Kaohsiung City Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) and Taipei City Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), Yu said that the best way is to not vote for those who make inappropriate comments and let them lose in elections.

Amendments to the Gender Equality Act never made it into the grand legislative committee for preliminary discussions during her time as a legislator, Yu said.

The tiny but might former legislator rests her hope for complete realization of gender equality in workplaces and beyond on the shoulders of the popular musician and independent activist Freddy Lim (林昶佐) and the newly-elected Fan Yun (范雲), also chairperson of the Awakening Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting women’s rights through policy and institutional reforms.

“It is hoped that in the upcoming legislative session, more members of the parliament will pay attention to this issue,” Yu said.