Women’s Spaces

A women-only space is the border and frontier for women to stay safe in public places. In the beginning, it was built to protect women.

Globally, women-only spaces and related services are harmed due to the permission for those “trans-identified males” to access both. As a result, women are deprived of personal safety and dignity.


How will Taiwan’s future look like?

Women’s Personal Safety and Privacy

According to Taiwan’s statistics about sex crimes, women experience sexual violence at a high rate whereas men are the most majority of sexual offenders. What is worse is, there is a low chance that these sex crimes will be appealed and convicted. The percentage of women being sexually offended in public spaces is significantly higher than the one of men. 1 Thus, women’s negative experiences in public spaces are mainly about insecurity. To allow men to enter women’s spaces is depriving women of personal safety and the right to use public spaces.

Abridging Women’s Right to Enter Public Spaces

Now, women increasingly gain the right to enter public spaces, yet they still are the weaker party in these places.

From the aspect of physical space and relational space, in mass culture, it is constantly implied that women are always a symbol of men’s potential desire objects; further, the society asks women to do self-protection. Thus, women become more vulnerable to sexual harassments. These conditions cause women to frequently feel embarrassed or limited. For example, if a public open space like park is crowded with men, women may try to avoid getting close to; therefore, it will be naturally formed into a men-only space.1

In short, the limitations on women’s bodies, behaviors, and spaces are the requests made by the society. In public spaces, the gaze and norms limit women’s body act more strictly than men’s. For example, the norm that “the women who spread their legs are inviting a sexual touching” forces women to close their legs in every public space. However, women have the needs to exercise their bodies. Therefore, women-only spaces like gyms, exercise yards, and yoga spaces are formed.

If women’s spaces are destroyed, women may be less willing to enter public spaces; further, they will lose the right to enter these places.

The Difficulties in Managing Gender-Identity-Based Facilities

Swimming pools, hot springs, saunas and gyms are divided by sexes. If it is impossible to prevent the opposite sex from entering these same-sex spaces, customers’ willingness to purchase and enter may be reduced.

If the Gender Recognition Act or Self ID is passed, how does any business owner know the sex of their customer? Will single-sex spaces be discriminatory even if unlawful?

The Services Preferred to Be Single-Sex

  • Providers and customers of long-term care will ask for same-sex services due to various reasons. For some customers whose family members are mostly females, they refuse to be served by males in order to avoid crime risks or persist in personal concerns. Vice versa, some providers who have experienced sexual harassments refuse to serve males or the family whose members are mostly males.

  • House cleaning companies tend to hire women due to safety concerns.

  • When seeking for medical treatments, some women who have sex organs disorders (e.g. aches of private parts and problems of uterine, ovarian, and breast) prefer to female physicians due to privacy issues. Therefore, some hospitals provide single-sex services to women by offering female obstetricians and gynecologists. This need of female patients should be respected rather than deprived.

The Jobs Requiring Physical Contacts

  • The industries like beauty salons and bridal services require a lot of physical contacts. However, if a provider prefers to same-sex customers, will it be a discriminatory act?
  • During the customs’ body search, people of different sexes may have some physical contacts; furthermore, there may be differences in the must-search body parts for male and female visitors.
  • The Police
    • For the body search after an arrest, if possible, female police officers will be asked to search female suspects and criminals for the purpose of avoiding any controversy over sexual harassments.
    • For a urine drug test, it must be monitored throughout the process; also, the restroom door needs to be open. Meanwhile, the police officers will be the same sex as the test taker is. If the test taker is a transgender without undergoing a sex reassignment surgery, it will be very difficult to carry out the whole process.

A Company’s Internal System

The examples below including company facilities, room arrangement for company trips and business trips, etc.

  • If employees are divided by sexes during their company’s health check, will this division be considered a gender discrimination and harassment?
  • Do employees have the right to ask for a company facility with single-sex changing rooms?
  • Do employees have the right to ask for single-sex rooms in an overnight company trip?
  • Do employees have the right to know the sex of their unfamiliar roommate in a training/ business trip? Do they have the right to move to another room if their roommate is found out to be the opposite sex?

  1. References above are quoted from the chapter, “From the Aspects of Public and Private Domains: The right of women’s spaces” of Suchiu Chen’s thesis: Troubling the public-private split: A feminist critique. (公、私領域的空間面向:女性空間權力 (pdf)↩︎ ↩︎

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