Written by Mei-Hua Chen.
Since Taiwan lifted martial law in late 1987, Chinese women have come to Taiwan in increasing numbers as spouses, students and tourists. A further cohort has arrived as undocumented migrant workers, seeking economic opportunities and a better life. However, many of these women end up seeking survival in the sex industry. During the same period, Taiwanese men have become major sex buyers in other ‘markets’. Not surprisingly, China is one of the most popular destinations because of intense cross-Strait economic interactions, comparatively low prices charged by the Chinese sex trade, geographical proximity and cultural intimacy in terms of language and ‘race’. Although both transnational movements by Chinese women and Taiwanese men are related to commercial sex, their border-crossings are defined and treated very differently on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. The former is either labelled as smuggling mainland women (known disparagingly as dalumei ‘大陸妹’) or ‘fake marriage, real prostitution’ (假結婚真賣淫) and linked to ‘trafficking in women’. The latter meanwhile is widely welcomed as tourism by ‘Taiwanese compatriots’ (台灣同胞).
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