From anti-trafficking to social discipline; or, the changing role of “women’s” ngos in Taiwan

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Abstract

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 (Hershatter 1997, 4). As such, prostitution, as a recognizable “social problem,” signifies very different practices and populations and involves quite different ramifications in changing social contexts. One such extended process of signification has taken place since the 1990s in Taiwan, when the anti-trafficking discourse, previously understood as an effort to eradicate forced prostitution of aboriginal girls, found itself losing relevance in the fast-liberalizing youth culture of post-martial law, consumption-oriented Taiwan. Christian groups then revamped the cause, articulating broad parental anxieties and building up an intricate web of social discipline that also embodies “a vision of global governance.”1 As the sex work rights movement’s persistent struggle finally culminated in actual progress toward decriminalization in 2009, the anti-trafficking discourse is now revived to mobilize ethnic and economic anxieties surrounding global migration into a line of resistance against possible favorable changes in the status of sexual transactions. The present paper documents this long process in order to demonstrate the changing scope of the anti-prostitution cause that continuously metamorphoses itself into new forms of social control.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered
Subtitle of host publicationNew Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work, and Human Rights
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages83-105
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781317264514
ISBN (Print)9781594519888
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015

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