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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The “Fake Marriage” Test in Taiwan: Gender, Sexuality, and Border Control


According to many reports, migrant sex workers often use marriages of convenience to cross national borders in order to avoid laws criminalizing commercial sex in many destination countries. Taiwan is one of the countries developing strategies to prevent this illicit migration, particularly through the application of a fake marriage test. Based on in-depth interviews with eighteen Chinese migrant sex workers and thirteen officers of Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency (NIA), this article argues, first, that the discourse of “national security” has been widely drawn on to justify Taiwan’s rigid border control at the expense of stigmatized Chinese prostitutes who have been scapegoated. Border control is therefore not only racialized or classed but also sexualized, to the extent that all Chinese migrant women are considered potential prostitutes. Second, this article reveals how the exclusion of and hostility toward Chinese sex workers are simultaneously linked with a gender regime that seeks to exclude Chinese spouses who deviate from Taiwanese gender and social norms. The border is therefore a contested site where gender, sexuality, and nationality are interwoven. Keywords: migrant workers, sex workers, sexuality, gender, “fake marriage real prostitution,” border control, trafficking

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