Selling Daughter: Daughter Trafficking for Prostitution the Japanese Colonial Period in Taiwan
Shih-fang Lin (Graduate student, College of Law, National Taiwan University)
This paper examines the phenomenon of the trafficking of daughters into prostitution during the Japanese colonial period in Taiwan, the ways in which different legal cultures intersected and merged, and how the traditional patriarchal system was transformed and reinforced. The paper will examine shifts in legal structure and present different aspects of state control through observation of the implementation of laws by administrative (police) offices and legal institutions, particularly through reading the notarial certificate and civil judgment of court archives.
During the Qing dynasty, even though the Qing Code clearly forbade the trafficking of children, the practice was still prevalent in society. In the early Japanese colonial period, many hybrid contracts were used by parents to sell their daughters into prostitution. The format of these contracts was traditional, but employed some modern legal terms. However, starting from 1910, legal institutions used court rulings to declare that such contracts were against public order and good morals, and therefore void. The administration was further subjected to international pressure to root out all forms of human trafficking, and sought to reform legal prostitution by adopting the public notary system to protect the working conditions of prostitutes.
In order to address the situation, when the Japanese Empire adopted the western legal system, they divided sex work contracts into two categories, one contract for hiring and one for the loaning of money. The intention was to revive the practice of daughter trafficking into prostitution under the principles of freedom of contract and formal equality for all legal parties involved. Although the new law stated that permission from the family patriarch was required for a woman to register herself as a prostitute, in truth male heads of households continued to use this as a legal way to sell their daughters into prostitution. Laws of the period clearly assigned control over daughters to the family patriarch, reinforcing their right to continue this practice.
Japanese colonial period, daughter trafficking, prostitution, contract