Written by Annie Huang. One historical human rights progress Taiwan made happened in 2019 when the government legalised same-sex marriage. It was a rainy morning, and hundreds of LGBTI groups and activists were standing outside the Legislative Yuan waiting for results. When the president of the Legislative Yuan announced the legalisation of same-sex marriage, the rain stopped, and a rainbow appeared in the sky. People hugged and wept with joy for this historical first in Asia. However, at the same time and in the same plaza, a group of Taiwanese same-sex people burst into tears not because of happiness but because of sadness and discrimination. Transnational same-sex couples are left out of the legalisation content in the same-sex marriage bill without much reasonable reason.
Written by Madelynn Einhorn, Josie Coyle, and Timothy S. Rich. In June 2021, the Taiwanese legislature removed a nearly 90-year law criminalizing adultery, punishable with up to 12-months in prison and fines averaging 90,000 NTD (roughly USD 3000). In May 2020, the Constitutional Court overruled Article 239 of Taiwan’s criminal code, which criminalized adultery, because it violated the Constitution. The legislature removed the article from the legal code approximately a year later. South Korea removed a similar law in 2015 and India in 2018. Taiwan was one of the last liberal democracies to keep adultery illegal and the last East Asian country aside from the Philippines.
Written by Amélie Keyser-Verreault. One of the most important criterion determining whether a woman is considered beautiful is thinness in Taiwan and elsewhere. Under the influence of an increasing cult of beauty, my field works reveal the existence of various forms and causes of multiplying and exacerbating fat-shaming and beauty-related conflicts within the contemporary Taiwanese family. Although the idea that a close linkage between physical appearance and womanhood is certainly not new, recent research on women’s experiences of body transformation underscores that the degree of beauty pressure is unprecedented in contemporary societies.
Written by Lynn Ng Yu Ling. From the domestic caregivers in both locations, I gather that although there are important differences in the hiring criteria for employers, the root problem of employers having the upper hand in an asymmetrical working relationship remains unresolved. On the whole, it is harder for Taiwanese families to hire a ‘migrant maid’ (wai yong) than in Singapore, and several differences in the hiring process seem to indicate that Taiwan treats home care more seriously.
Written by Daniel Yo-Ling. The historic ruling in favour of plaintiff Xiao E found existing legal gender change regulations to be unconstitutional. Assuming that this ruling does not get appealed, Xiao E will be able to change her legal gender and become Taiwan’s first transgender woman to do so without submitting proof of surgery. TAPCPR’s press conference featured commentary on the decision from representatives of the Taiwan Adolescent Association on Sexualities, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, Taiwan Non-binary Queer Sluts, and Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association, as well as a written statement from Xiao E herself and comments by other transgender community members.
Written by Timothy S. Rich, Madelynn Einhorn, and Isabel Eliassen. Taiwan’s efforts at gender parity for electoral offices have resulted in a legislature where women currently hold 41.6% of seats. This leaves Taiwan ranked 12th globally, with only one Asian country (Timor-Leste) with similar rates. However, despite the success of President Tsai Ing-wen, the vast majority of executive offices (mayors and magistrates) are still held by men. Gender equality and the rise of women in national politics are common narratives when discussing Taiwanese politics.
Written by Elizabeth Frost. Much of Taiwan’s impresive progress towards gender equality is thanks to the Taiwanese island’s women’s movement. Two groups that have been instrumental in the post-martial law era Taiwanese women’s movement are Awakening and the Homemakers United Foundation (HUF). The early stages of both groups were similar – Awakening began as a magazine in 1982, and HUF was initially established as the women’s auxiliary of the New Environment magazine in 1987. After the lifting of martial law, the groups were incorporated into independent foundations – Awakening in 1987 and HUF in 1989. Awakening is one of the most influential feminist groups in Taiwan, and HUF is now one of Taiwan’s largest environmental NGOs.
Written by Isabelle Cheng. Women have a complicated relationship with the wars waged by the nation-state. Women are the reproducers and boundary ma(r)kers of the nation, so women, notably when they embody the nation’s image, are said to be protected by the state as a reason for going to war. They are also projected as the victims of war when the state loses to its enemy, mainly when the enemy uses rape as a weapon to weaken national morale. On the battlefield, women are used as fighters, porters, carers, entertainers or sex slaves to enhance war fighting capacity physically or mentally. During the two world wars, in the state’s propaganda, women were encouraged to ‘give away’ their husbands and sons to the state or were recruited to fill the vacancies left by men to work in the manufacturing, agricultural or transport sectors. Their homemaking and thrifty cooking were characterised as contributing to war efforts. Regardless of which of these roles they play, they are instrumentalised by the state.
Written by Yahia Zhengtang Ma. The last decade of the twentieth century was an especially interesting time in the emergence of ‘tongzhi literature’. This genre consists of literary works that ‘deal with homosexuals and homosexuality’ in Taiwan when queer cinema was introduced to Taiwan via Hong Kong. The 1990s are widely considered the golden age of tongzhi literature, animated by such widely-celebrated literary works by Ta-wei Chi, Chu T’ien-wen, Qiu Miaojin, among many others. However, existing scholarship on this has primarily emphasised the complexity of the tongzhi identity, subjectivity, and discourse around tongzhi, tongxianglian and queer in solely its original Chinese texts through the lens of cultural studies and literary studies.
Written by Yi-Yu Lai. As an anthropologist who studies Indigenous movements in the Philippine highlands, my experiences of beauty pageants’ are not rare. The beauty pageant has been culturally entrenched in the Philippines and its diasporic communities for many decades. Because these contests are very popular with Filipinos, some Indigenous youth advocates use them as an instrument for cultural activism, empowering participants and attracting those who were previously indifferent to political issues. Nevertheless, the Filipino beauty pageants of Taiwan are quite different from those I previously experienced.
Written by Yi Wang. Significant progress and landmark rulings in advancing LGBTQ+ rights have been made across Asia in recent years, though many challenges and obstacles remain. Asians are among the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the UK, but Asian LGBTQ+ communities are not widely represented. Film reflects society and a medium capable of raising awareness amongst audiences in a direct and accessible way. Queer representation in the media is strongly linked to the wider public’s views on LGBTQ+ communities. I founded Queer East to amplify the voices of under-represented queer Asian and diasporic communities.
Written by Ta-Wei Chi. As a researcher of Taiwanese queer literature, I have found intersectionality between the queer and the disabled in literature since the late 1960s. Commonly lauded as the most influential gay text in the Chinese-speaking world, Hsien-yung Pai (1937-)’s Crystal Boys (serialised since 1978, published as a novel in 1983) mentions how a couple of sugar daddies take home the hunks with developmental disabilities as their intimate partners. Pai’s 1969 story, “A Sky Full of Bright, Twinkling Stars,” typically considered a prequel to Crystal Boys, tells how both the youthful male prostitutes and their senior patrons are made disabled once they are arrested and tortured by police.