Lecture 4

From Anti-Trafficking to Social Discipline [1]

(Or, The Changing Role of "Women's" NGOs in Taiwan)

Josephine Ho

National Central University

Gail Hershatter has noted that prostitution usually does not dominate public discourse or attention except at certain critical moments when it suddenly becomes the center of social concern as "a metaphor, a medium of articulation" through which various emerging social forces and social anxieties play out their displaced existence.[2] As such, prostitution, as a recognizable "social problem," may signify very different practices and populations and involve different ramifications as the social context changes. In tonight's lecture, I would like to briefly trace such a process of change through which the anti-trafficking discourse, understood in the Taiwanese context as the eradication of a specific form of underage prostitution, came to articulate a quite different set of parties and interests; as well as the process of how, as the anti-trafficking cause quickly lost its relevance in the fast changing social reality of Taiwan, it has now transformed itself into an intricate web of social discipline that also embodies "a vision of global governance."[3]

The mid-1980s was the last years of the notoriously repressive Taiwanese martial law as well as the height of Taiwan's struggling democratization process; and it was within this delicately volatile political milieu that "anti-trafficking," as a moral and humanitarian imperative "incidentally" hooked unto a human rights imperative,[4] came to provide a legitimate cause through which various social forces could rally for social demonstration. Presbyterian relief workers serving the aborigine tribes had first noted the string of aborigine girls, 13 to 16 years of age, who were sold into city brothels by a bankrupt aborigine economy amidst a booming Taiwanese economic miracle. As the advocacy of children's rights became the central focus of international organizations in the mid-1980s, the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan saw an opportunity to link up the local with the international. Determined to stop the spread of this terrible sin among the disadvantaged ethnic groups, the Presbyterian Church set up a "Rainbow Project" in the following year to advocate the rescue of the aborigine girls. The proposal for a sort of united front to call attention to the plight of underage aborigine prostitutes met with warm support among NGO groups in the loose political opposition alliance.[5] The groups then staged a small-scale march, titled "Face Up to Trafficking: Concern for the Child Prostitutes". The destination of the march was one Taipei metropolitan police station that oversaw a specific red-light district notorious for harboring aborigine child prostitutes.

The march took place under martial law on January 11, 1987 when over 100 marchers gathered in front of the police station. At this initial stage of collaboration, the general framework of reference for this united front was "rescue," with a two-pronged goal to urge the nonchalant police to rescue the girls out of their immediate predicament as well as to crack down upon the so-called trafficking crime rings. In other words, the police was seen as at least partially responsible for leaving the girls trapped in the vicious circle of trafficking and prostitution. As the anti-trafficking cause limited its targets to the evil traffickers and the inept police, it maintained a rather pragmatic attitude toward the tenacious existence of the sex industry as a whole. The banner that led the march even boldly read: "the human rights of prostitutes." Their First Joint Statement of Cause offered "supervision" and "unionization of sex workers" as part of the short-term plan to deal with prostitution so that other prostitutes could at least enjoy some basic protection and autonomy before the eventual abolition of prostitution. Anti-trafficking at this stage in Taiwan is thus more anti-slavery than anti-prostitution, with a strong human rights concern for the enslavement of a specific segment of prostitutes, the underage minority girls.

Such a focused effort would gradually broaden as anti-traffickers searched for more effective ways to stop the traffic of aborigine girls in a fast changing society. Frustrated with the ineptitude and insincerity of the police (as well as local legislators) to stop the traffic of aborigine girls, anti-traffickers decided that higher authorities, namely, the whole legal system, needed to be mobilized to ensure that traffickers and brothel owners[7] and clients would be dissuaded from such acts of victimization. In other words, tougher sentences must be instituted against trafficking, and reform of the criminal code must be included as one of the goals of the anti-trafficking rescue effort. What's more, when the second rescue march was held on January 9, 1988, the marchers began chanting slogans directed not only at the traffickers but also prominently at the clients who frequented the brothels. What had begun as a humanitarian or human rights gesture a year ago was re-figuring itself into a moral crusade against immoral men who brutalized young girls through the sex industry. The major theme of this effort was now NOT so much "rescue" of the innocent girls as "punishment" of the guilty (sinful) men.

As lawyers and field workers of rescue efforts began discussing the amendment proposals after the second march, it became clear that a whole new special law would be needed so that the various clauses of various codes and various agencies of the government could be coordinated into a concerted effort to not only punish those who were responsible for the trafficking of aborigine girls into prostitution, but also establish a sort of preemptive network that would protect all girls from ever coming into contact with the perils of sex work. As rescue efforts turned into legislative efforts, their scope of applicability also underwent significant transformations. The key justification of "rescue" efforts had depended upon the rescued girls testifying that they had been "forced" into prostitution. Yet, out of a complex of varied considerations, many rescued girls chose not to incriminate their own parents or the brothel owners. Without the element of coercion, the trafficking charges brought against traffickers or brothel owners often ended in acquittals and the girls were returned to their guardians, their parents, before moving back into the sex trade again. Frustrated anti-traffickers were determined to change the terms of indictment so as to get rid of this seeming "loophole." Another factor that urged anti-traffickers to consider overstepping the question of consent was the realization, backed up by quite a few contemporary studies, that an alarming number of the so-called underage prostitutes were no longer aborigine girls sold into prostitution. Instead, many newly found underage prostitutes were simply ordinary girls who, helped along by the liberalizing attitudes toward sex in a sexually-charged social context, chose to enter the trade for the lucrative profits it offered.[8] Faced with this emerging moral crisis, worried anti-traffickers resolved that the work of aggressive and comprehensive "prevention" would make more sense than the work of reactive and isolated "rescue." Consequently, several important transformations were effected in the process of legislation.

To begin with, the rescued girls' testimonies of their own consent to do sex work would no longer be taken into the equation. Instead, the "act" of sexual contact and the "age" of the girl involved would be sufficient criteria for an indictment, thus effectively erasing the subjectivity of the girls, as well as the term "trafficking." Two other significant expansions were also effected: first, penalty would be applicable to any obscene contact, not just sexual intercourse; second, penalty would be applicable even when no monetary transaction took place. In other words, the target of the new law is no loner just trafficking or prostitution that involved minors, but any kind of sexual contact with (or even between) juveniles. To safeguard the girls from reentering the sex trade after being returned to their parents, the new law would also allocate great sums of funding for half-way schools and other protection facilities that would keep the girls for a certain period of rehabilitation, monitor their progress, and determine whether they were ready to be returned to normal life. Moreover, in order to prevent other "high-risk" girls from entering the trade, whether voluntarily or forced, the law decreed that a monitoring network be established whereby schools and police stations would be required to report and track down girls who dropped out of schools without a good reason. The girls would then be consigned to relief workers and social workers to be "counseled" back onto the right track of life. An ever-broadening circle of control has conveniently displaced an originally humanitarian rescue effort.

The eventual transformation of the anti-child-prostitution cause since 1987 was clearly dramatized in one grand event, a third massive march through the brothel area. In contrast to the first two marches which were distinctively NGO in nature, namely, small in size, consisting of marginalized NGO groups, and viewed by the government with suspicion; the third march—to be more exact, the so-called Anti-Child-Prostitution Jog[9] —took place on November 14, 1993 and was attended by all the key government officials, legislators representing various political parties, educators, celebrities and other social leaders, amounting to more than ten thousand people. Leading the jog was the Minister of Justice, Minister of the Interior, Minister of Finance, Director of Government Information Office, and other officials of the government, as a gesture of state support for such a noble cause. Instead of being the targets of criticism for corruption and indifference toward the child prostitute issue, politicians and law enforcement officers were now running alongside anti-child-prostitution movement organizers and crowds, declaring war on the traffickers, brothel owners, and johns, and pledging to rid Taiwan of this unmentionable national shame.

While the public show of resolve was still riding on the strong sentiment against the trafficking of underage girls, the legislation against child prostitution was expanding far beyond the issue, with expansions added on by opportunist politicians and anti-children-prostitution NGOs as they responded to evolving social realities of Taiwan. In the end, the version that was passed in 1995 no longer contained any reference to human trafficking, but something much broader. In addition to broadening the category of punishable acts from sexual intercourse to all forms of "obscene acts" ranging from heavy petting, oral sex, masturbation, to posing for pornographic films; another new category of punishable crimes was also added to the law to truncate teenagers' increasing accessibility to information that might lead to sex work. Now, advertising for sex work, advertising for pornographic materials, even provision or display of pornographic materials would be considered "solicitation," liable for sentencing up to five years of imprisonment and US$30,000 in fine.

A new parental and pastoral power is now concretely embodied in the administrative power wielded by the anti-prostitution NGOs. For, instead of turning a blind eye to the petition of NGOs, various state agencies—including Ministry of Justice, Bureau of Health, Ministry of Communication and Transportation, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defense (!), and Ministry of Economic Affairs—would be bound by law to actively seek, inform, investigate, place in protective custody, provide medical care and consultation for those girls suspected of doing sex work. What's more, the performance of government agencies on these issues would be subjected to regular evaluations by a monitoring alliance formed by none other than the anti-child-prostitution NGOs and other sympathetic scholars. Such easy access to state information and power, plus preferential access to state-provided funding and resources, would greatly improve anti-prostitution NGOs' power to institute and monitor/supervise the implementation of the laws, not to mention increased staff and budget.[10]

Since 1995, the Law to Suppress Sexual Transaction Involving Children and Juveniles has already gone through four amendments to curb newly emerging social changes, each further widened the web of social discipline. Most noteworthy of all were amendments introduced in 1999: amendments to Articles 9, 22, and 34 added penalties to sex tourism even if the country where the sexual transaction took place does not consider such acts as criminal. To make enforcement feasible, the amendment mandates tour guides or tourist agencies to become whistle-blowers or watch-dogs, thus extending the long arm of Taiwanese law far beyond its borders. Amendments to Article 33, furthermore, made media agencies liable for the ads they carry in their publications or broadcasts, thus effectively forcing the media agencies to take on censorship functions that greatly impinge on the freedom of speech and expression.

The most profound amendment had to do with Article 29, which has now become the most broadly and effectively enforced article. The original Article had aimed to prevent those establishments in the sex industry (ranging from night clubs, escort services, porn production companies, underground pubs, sexual karaokes, to telephone clubs) from putting up commercials to lure teens into the sex trade. But the 1999 amended version greatly extended its scope of applicability:

Those who use advertisement, publication, radio, television, electronic signal and internet, or other media to publish or broadcast messages that induce, broker, imply or by other means cause people to be involved in sexual transactions shall be punished with imprisonment of no more than five years and alternatively coupled with a fine of no more than one million NT dollars.

When the applicability of the law was extended to include "electronic signal and the internet" and far beyond the category of "ads and commercials," the highly individualized and variegated communications in the cyber world are conveniently subsumed under the auspice of the law. Now any "messages" on the internet, even those posted by individual net citizens in the clearly marked adult chat-rooms or discussion boards, that "could" be read as "hinting/implying" sexual invitations which "might" evolve into transactions are to be indicted.[11] In fact, since 1999, more than two thousand cases of alleged efforts to conduct "enjo-kosai" (Japanese term for compensated companionship or casual sex work) had been indicted and convicted. Most of the perpetrators were merely young people who were seeking sexual relationships on the internet and had done nothing other than using the fashionable and highly seductive term "enjo-kosai" to distinguish themselves in the vast ocean of netters.[12] The enforcement of Article 29 was so pervasive that even on-line discussion of "enjo-kosai" as an academic subject could be subjected to the same scrutiny if the discussion did not follow the orthodox line of condemnation. In short, whereas it used to be the act of sex for money that constitutes punishable behavior, now, even speech about sex for money are liable to be indicted.

A major part of the welcome enjoyed by these NGOs in government matters must also be attributed to the opportunity of international participation that they afford. Their affiliation with international anti-child-prostitution organizations often carries further links to other international non-governmental and inter-governmental organizations (Interpol, World Tourism Organization, and various United Nations agencies, especially UNICEF and ILO-IPEC), a connection network that the aspiring Taiwan government is eager to tap into in order to promote affirmation of its independent nation status. The NGOs themselves benefit from such a network too, for connections are set up for exchange of skills, information, and advocacy purposes between organizations in the developed countries and those in the developing countries, which quickly and dramatically enhanced the effectiveness of local efforts as well as their power of influence. Furthermore, the organizations share their work plans with one another, mutually strengthening each other's projects. Linkages with all these organizations bring external pressures to bear upon national governments to implement measures suggested by international organizations, thus effectively consolidating the "global governance" that the UN is aspiring for.[13]

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, deemed as "a universally agreed set of non-negotiable standards and obligations," is the most recent example of such consolidating efforts that work to identify the national laws and practices that needed to be brought into conformity with these UN standards. The Taiwanese Legislative Yuan passed joint amendments to the Children's Welfare Act and Juveniles Welfare Act, effective June 1, 2003 in order to "bring the Acts in line with United Nation's definition of children." The amendments not only broadened applicability to those under age of 18, greatly increasing the number of youngsters that come under the auspice of the law in the name of welfare, but also more rigidly regulate the whole of social and virtual space in the name of children. The internet and other media would be rated and if found broadcasting materials unsuitable for children, would be subjected to heavy fines and temporary suspension of licenses. Furthermore, parents and guardians are now held responsible for the activities of their children: if those under 18 were found to have come into contact with unsuitable materials, visited sex-related recreational businesses, lingered at gambling, pornography, violence-related video arcades, then the parents or guardians would be charged and fined. Protection of children can even extend to before they were born: pregnant mothers are now prohibited to smoke, drink, use drugs, chew betel nuts, and conduct other activities deemed harmful for the fetus. It is speculated that as "gender mainstreaming" gains international momentum, more new rules and regulations concerning men's and women's daily lives are going to be prescribed in Taiwan.

As history has it, the actual "trafficking" of humans in Taiwan at the present moment is primarily in the form of importation of migrant labor from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, etc., legally brought in to satisfy the needs of both government construction projects and industries in the private sector, as well as domestic help for middle-class families.[14] There are also a large number of migrant marriages that have taken place as a result of dramatically changed global and local economic conditions since the early or mid-nineties (with foreign brides coming mostly from Vietnam and Indonesia, negotiated through professional matchmaking agencies at a cost, in addition to a huge number of Mainland China brides).[15] Viewed in this context, when conservative "women's" groups continue to demand various policies and measures in the name of anti-trafficking but not addressed to the importation of foreign labor, the history and memory of "trafficking" in terms of a traditional familial custom in times of economic poverty (the "selling" of daughters, daughters-in-law, etc.) is invoked only to effectively displace/deny today's massive legalized "trafficking" on the state level. When "human trafficking" IS invoked, however, it is usually in relation to the continuous flow of migrant women from Mainland China, or more recently from Russia, in search of better economic possibilities through sex work in this wave of rapid globalization. To describe such women in terms of "trafficking"—echoing lingering images of helpless aborigine girls in the hands of heartless traffickers, brothel owners, and pimps—serves not only to distort/erase the subjectivity/agency of such migrating sex workers but also to demonize the political regimes from whence they had come as forcing such inhuman practices.[16]

In the past, astronomical figures of the rapid growth and spread of the sex industry are constantly cited by anti-prostitution groups to justify the legislation of more laws and ordinances that impinge on the life of every citizen in the name of child-protection. Yet, what we have witnessed in Taiwan in the past 10 years is the incredible growth and power of an anti-sex-industry that thrives upon the imagined evil existence of trafficking and the sex industry, as well as the convoluted complex of national-global governance. Such a web of normalizing knowledge/power conglomerate that continues to reduce the widely varied faces and practices of Asian sex work to nothing but the trafficking of women and children is bound to constitute more obstacles for the emerging subjectivity and agency of sex workers as well as the prostitutes' rights movements in Asia. And it is this national/global governance that has to be resisted.

incredible growth and power of an anti-sex-industry that thrives upon the imagined evil existence of trafficking and the sex industry, as well as the convoluted complex of national-global governance. Such a web of normalizing knowledge/power conglomerate that continues to reduce the widely varied faces and practices of Asian sex work to nothing but the trafficking of women and children is bound to constitute more obstacles for the emerging subjectivity and agency of sex workers as well as the prostitutes' rights movements in Asia. And it is this national/global governance that has to be resisted.

Discussant: TAKEMURA Kazuko (Professor, Ochanomizu University)

Ⅰ. Yes, I quite agree with you on:

  • 1. the "re-normalization" of sexuality in the rubric of liberation
  • 2. on-going subjection (assujetissement) through censorship
  • 3. digital panopticon in a cyber society

Ⅱ. What in the lecture interest me are:

  • 1. an unhappy coincidence between the state's interest and NGOs's project in terms of international linkage and recognition
  • 2. the extension of the national law beyond its borders through the tourist business or, more precisely, through legal decrees ordering tourist guides to be watch-dogs over sexual behaviors of tourists

Ⅲ. Questions to think further:

  • 1. The ambivalence toward the mainstreaming of NGOs
  • It seems we need to see the two-sided effect, that is, the consolidation of regulation and the advancement of welfare and support system, both brought out by the mainstreaming of NGOs. The roots of each NGO might concern the extent and contents of its alliance with the goverment project.
  • [Q1] Is it that most NGOs which participated in Anti-Traffick marches had originally cherished conservative sexual norms based upon their religion? Or were they pandering to the government only temporarily and strategically in order to stop the terrible business.
  • [Q2] Do you have some cases in which supportive NGOs left the government initiative anti-traffick movement and is now standing against it when they have found its negative and repressive phase? If so, what proportion of them have converted?
  • 2. The reality and metaphor of trafficking and the government intervention
  • It seems any government watches for an opportunity to extend its power. In this sense, trafficking of poor aborigine girls might be a bang-up chance to be used as a banner or a metaphor for purging sexual "evils." And so did the Taiwanese government.
  • [Q3] Still, some people might think national/international governing powers should step in, to some extent, to prevent miserable cases of trafficking. How do you think the "reality" of trafficking can be treated? Once we know the crafty exercise of the state's power in the name of "rescue" or "liberation," how can we distinguish between "reality" and "metaphor" in terms of political action?
  • 3. The construction of juvenile sexuality
  • Now we suppose the youth are at the crossroad of sexual re-configuration: on the one hand, the internalization of sexual norms is going on, effected by the enlargement of the punishable, while, on the other hand, biased sexual information is wriggling out of the legal control and proliferated through various digital media.
  • [Q4] At this crossroad, I'm afraid, some youth will be built more and more conservative while others are resisting such a reactionary climate and pursuing more "adventurous" and endangered sexual practices owing to the partial information of sexuality as well as the underground-ed sexual industry. What do you think of this polarization of the sexual behaviors of youth to be apprehended in the immediate future?
  • 4. Respond to these four lectures,
  • [Q5] How do you think "New People," who are "liberated" at the sexual front, can be connected to still-conservative sexual majority to subvert the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime?

Response by Ho:

I am grateful for Takemura Sensei's thoughtful response to my paper. Perhaps I need to add a few more points here to clarify the case.

1. The question of the relation between NGOs and the state: I don't think there is a universal rule that can prescribe what that relation should be; nor could there be an ideal situation to which all NGOs and all states should try to approximate. The huge differences in social contexts and the varied trajectories of historical sediments make it impossible to establish the norm for such interactions. The important point I hope to make here, though, is that, at least in the case of Taiwan, we have witnessed the great success that some NGOs have had in pushing the state into establishing legislation that claims to strengthen social welfare and child protection. The interesting thing is, such welfare and protection measures were often purchased at the cost of the so-called sexual deviants and sexual minorities (including sex workers, sexually active youths, marginal sexualities, and mostly recently researchers in sexualities studies, etc.). In other words, "welfare" and "protection" are always already loaded terms geared toward certain normative subjects and their interests and values, while overlooking the interests and values of other, marginal, subjects. I am hoping that my paper has done the preliminary work in documenting such trade-offs in the past few years.

2. The religious women's NGOs and their strategies: Takemura Sensei is very kind in speculating that these moves may be simply temporary strategies to get the state to stop the terrible business of human trafficking. But let me point out two things: (1) The conservative groups' strategy is always legislation-oriented, pressured into place through a high moral imperative which few politicians have the nerve to resist and many jumped on the bandwagon simply to whitewash their own corrupt image. Sadly, once a legislation is put into place, revoking it is almost impossible (unless added on as a refinement measure by the original groups). In that sense, such strategies are never "temporary"; their consequences are quite long-lasting and in many cases, devastating. (2) The anti-trafficking cause in 1987 and 1988 did raise public outcry, which contributed to the decline of trafficking. But when "human trafficking" is no longer an adequate description of the sex work situation in Taiwan, and when progressives in the original anti-trafficking cause moved onto other pressing social issues, the cause was retained by conservatives and developed into a moral crusade that, as my paper has demonstrated, aimed to greatly expand the regulation and social policing of sexual conducts as well as sexual language. Some of the original members of the earlier marches have spoken against such measures on various occasions but to little effect. Takemura Sensei may hope that the so-called "liberated sexual front" could still link up with the "conservative sexual majority" to "subvert the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime." But the fact of the matter is, the "conservative sexual majority" is working exactly to affirm "the prevailing monogamous heterosexual nuclear-family regime" by prosecuting/persecuting the sexual front. There is no room for dialog, much less collaboration.

3. The problem of "real" trafficking: This is a big question that demands a big answer, which can hardly be handled here. In relation to the recent trend of anti-trafficking activities promoted by international organizations, I could only briefly caution against the sweeping use of the term "trafficking" to describe the widely varied emerging forms of self-motivated sexual migration in pursuit of better financial gains. After all, what kind of NGOs would focus only on SEXUAL anti-trafficking while at the same time collaborating with a government that promotes the trafficking of massive cheap labors for state- and industry-oriented construction? Is this not actually an anti-sex crusade masquerading as anti-trafficking? Besides, if we are truly concerned about the economic difficulties that are said to have forced these people into sexual migration, then our efforts should be directed at helping those states to improve their economy as well as to enforce economic justice, instead of aggressively hunting down migrant sex workers, stopping them in their pursuit of limited betterment of their lives, however limited that may be.

4. The problem of polarized youths: I think "polarization" may not be an appropriate characterization of the situation in regard to youth sexuality. My third lecture in this series has already described the greatly enhanced overall sexual horizon of today's youths. If youths had few choices in regard to their sexual expression and sexual gratification in the past, today's youths are at least beginning to be faced with an increasing number of choices. It is a cliché to say that with choices come responsibilities. But I am afraid these new legislations established by conservative NGOs have done nothing but taking those choices as well as the responsibilities away from today's youths—all in the name of "protection."

Audience Q & A:

Question 1: You talked about how Article 29 punishes those who attempt to conduct sexual transactions on the internet. What if this person is under 18? Also, I'd like to ask about sex education in Taiwan. In Japan, when we push for appropriate ways of conducting sex education, we are always attacked by conservatives. How are things in Taiwan?

Answer: Article 29 does not specify the age of the culprit, but if you are under 18, usually you will receive a lighter sentence, which in many cases means you will be put into some half-way school where you will be rehabilitated to the "normal" way of life and respectable social values. And you know what happens at these half-way schools: you will not be able to meet your family very often, you will have to admit you had done the wrong thing and would never do it again, you will have to demonstrate good behavior before you are allowed to return to the society, you will be monitored all the time. It is a place to break down young people's spirits.

As to the question of sex education, unfortunately the person who is most powerful in Taiwanese sex education happens to be a public hygienist who is also a conservative Christian. And the key lesson for sex education can be summarized in a joke that has been passed around among teachers: "Boys should respect girls, girls should respect themselves." In other words, self-restraint and abstinence are the most important lessons. Youths should refrain from getting in touch with sex-related information and images altogether. Things have been gradually changing as gay groups organize to make demands on gay-friendly gender education, but Christian groups are still agitating to oppose it. The battles go on.

Question 2: I am very impressed with what you have presented here tonight about these NGOs and their legislative efforts. But is the Taiwanese society so conservative that it would support such measures?

Answer: To describe a society as "conservative" may be an over-simplified move. First of all, different arenas in the social structure often demonstrate different degrees of openness. In Taiwan, the political arena can now tolerate a lot of different political stances, but in the sexual arena, little room is left for sexual dissidence. Is that a conservative society or not? Secondly, in regard to sexual matters, there is the serious impediment of sexual stigma. The shame and social disdain associated with stigma make it very difficult for people to speak up against policies that look respectable. In such cases, I am not so sure it is a matter of conservativeness. It is a matter of the effect of sexual stigma. Thirdly, conservativeness is a relative concept. If your values coincide with those of the mainstream, you would not feel this is a conservative society; in fact, you are happy as a fish in water. On the other hand, if you are a sexual minority, you would be utterly oppressed within the same social context and consider the society highly conservative. So it may be more useful to examine this society in its different aspects than to simply draw a conclusion about whether it is conservative or not.


* Delivered on June 4, 2003 as IGS Evening Seminar, Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan

  • 1. This is a much abbreviated version of a much longer paper, "From Anti-Trafficking to Social Discipline: Or, The Changing Role of 'Women's' NGOs in Taiwan," Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights, Edited by Kamala Kempadoo, Jyoti Sanghera, and Bandana Pattanaik (Boulder, CO: Paradigm, 2005): 83-105.
  • 2. Gail Hershatter, Dangerous Pleasure: Prostitution and Modernity in 20th-Century Shanghai (Berkeley: U of California P., 1997, 1998), p. 4.
  • 3. Tani E. Barlow has also discussed this concept in relation to the universalization of the gender analytic by Chinese women's NGOs working in unison with the United Nations in the post-Cold War era. See, Barlow, "Asia, Gender and Scholarship Under Processes of Re-Regionalization," Journal of Gender Studies, Ochanomizu University, Tokyo, Japan, No. 5 (2002), p. 8.
  • 4. "Human rights" as a concept had been used by the Nationalist government in Taiwan mainly to highlight the notorious human rights records of its rival government of Mainland China. The concept was appropriated by Taiwanese political dissidents to rally for international as well as domestic support during the 1970s and 1980s.
  • 5. One underlying basis of consensus has to do with the fact that many of these groups overlapped one another in membership and in their common commitment to opposition politics better known as "democratization." As such, the cause also carried strong ethnic, age, gender, and most significantly religious connotations that would play a significant role in its future transmutation.
  • 6. Such "effective" means to stop the traffic of aborigine girls would also prove to be effective means to greatly enhance the (financial and political) status of anti-trafficking groups, to the extent that in the years immediately following upon the first march, quite a few rescue/relief groups that aimed at rescuing "unfortunate" girls (or women) were established by various religious denominations. The Catholic Good Shepherd Sisters (est. 1987) was affiliated with the Catholic Church, while The Garden of Hope (est. 1988), The Rainbow Center (est. 1988), and End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism Taiwan (ECPAT) (est. 1990) were all closely related to Protestant denominations. As these groups took up the work of running half-way houses and providing spiritual education/counseling for the rescued girls, their voice and their religious-moral standards also became viable forces in the social framing of underage prostitution.
  • 7. Their testimonies of having joined the trade "willingly" were consistently read as resulting from financial pressures or threats against the safety of their families.
  • 8. Leading anti-prostitution group, Garden of Hope Foundation, cites a study of teenage girls in April of 1993 that showed over 30% of junior high school girls already had sexual experience, and more than 70% of the "rescued" teenage prostitutes "willingly" entered the trade. Such studies often evoke mass hysterias that would lead to more stringent laws concerning teenagers.
  • 9. GOH's CEO Hui-Jung Chi fondly remembers the event: "I had thought we could jog around this red-light district seven times, just like what the Israelites did to the city of Jericho, and it would disappear from the face of the earth." (http://www.ccea.org.tw/soc/17.htm). It was not clear whether all those who joined the event were aware of this Christian allusion.
  • 10. The annual revenue for Garden of Hope, the largest of the child-protection NGOs, reached US$11,000,000 in 2010, fifty times what it was in 1987, with hundreds of full-time staff members stationed across the island and even overseas in the US. The abundance in resources and man power also greatly increased its power to promote issues and campaigns.
  • 11. Whether minors were actually involved in the communication is of no consequence, for the mere "possibility" that juveniles could stumble unto such postings and be "negatively affected" is enough cause for indictment.
  • 12. "Enjo-kosai" may have come to stand for any form of casual sex work in Taiwan, but article 29 addresses not actual sexual transactions, but the communication that may lead up to such transactions. In Jan. 2003, a pregnant wife posted enjo-kosai messages in her husband's name to see if the husband would give in to the many calls that he got from inquiring women. The husband stayed his ground but the wife is now charged because of posting enjo-kosai messages.
  • 13. Such close collaborative efforts of course would result in increased obstacles for the emerging prostitutes' rights movements in Asia. For as long as sex work in Asia is still described under the rubric of human trafficking, whatever nascent subjectivity and struggle of the sex workers would be silenced or at most considered as false consciousness or confused sexual values.
  • 14. The number of alien workers in Taiwan, totaling 150,000 in 1984, reached almost 400,000 by 2010. Gender distribution used to favor male alien workers but dovetailed toward the end of 2000 due to changes in the industrial structure as well as public fear that male alien workers may sexually assault local women. Last count in May 2010 put male alien workers at 150,000 and female alien workers at more than 240,000.
  • 15. By the end of 2010, the total number of foreign brides in Taiwan totaled 440,000, out of which the brides from Mainland China make up 280,000.
  • 16. For historical reasons, Mainland China and Russia (reminiscent of the Soviet Union) have long been considered Communist menaces to the world.