Sterilizing society: social order and policing sex work in Taiwan
ABSTRACT This article utilizes Michel Foucault’s view of state racism to analyze the criminalization of sex workers in Taiwan. To explore the political significance underlying the term sex work for anti-prostitution activists, we must historically situate their discourses and their impact on legal control in the late 1980s women’s movements. Their efforts to reform society followed from their commitment to child protection and from their long-standing goal of eliminating women’s sexuality through motherhood. An uphill battle, marshaled chiefly by the amendment of the Youth Welfare Act in 1988 and the legislation of CYSTPA in 1995, it became more furious in its assault on sex workers. By 2009, whereas those anti-prostitution activists had promoted anti-human trafficking provisions to protect victims under the age of 18, such provisions had in reality become mechanisms for arresting anyone related with the sex industry. This means that what was put forward as a principle for the integration of society and its visible order was based on sexual inequality. Contrasting the strategies and rhetoric of regulating sex workers in Taiwan, what is really necessary is to bring the cultural dynamics behind policies into sharper view of state racism.
Keywords: Social order, state racism, sex work, sterilization, protective measures, personal liberty
Ya-fei Hsu is Professor of Public Policy at Nan Hua University, where she teaches courses on social policy and gender/sexuality politics. She has published several articles on the regulation of prostitution in Taiwan, including ‘Norms for Gender/Sexuality and Hate Crime: The Policy Regulation of Sex Work,’ (in Chinese) Router: A Journal f Cultural Studies (2007) and ‘Bare Life in Taiwan’s Communication System’ (in Chinese) in Queer Soundings (2009). Currently, she is one of the executive editors of Taiwan: A radical Quarterly in Social Studies, an important Chinese academic journal, and turning to a new research project on the regulation of femininity through crime prevention in twentieth-century Chinese society.