What does the nation mean to women? How does the law draw national borders, and in what way is it gendered? This paper examines the ways in which women are related to the nation in Taiwan by discussing the legal regulation of nationality. Historically and contemporarily, the decisive and determinative power of the law in choosing members of the nation and in drawing national boundaries shapes women's overall relationship with the nation as an unequal one, as an inequality that is informed by women's subordinate status in the nation. My investigation into the subject of women and nationality in Taiwan reveals, through historical lenses, the ways in which law constructs national membership along gendered lines that subordinate women. Specifically, I examine how a woman's membership to the nation was dependent on her marital status, how citizen-mothers were deprived of the entitlement to define the nation through passing down her nationality, and how the law has been changed to reshape gendered borders. I begin with a discussion on various forms of gender inequality in nationality laws that existed during the Japanese colonial period, which reveals the gendered process of “becoming Japanese nationals,” and the gender politics of Japanese nationality in the context of imperial conquest as exemplified by the intermarriage between Japanese and Taiwanese. Gender inequality under nationality law survived the end of World War II, and new forms of discrimination in the legal regulation of women and national community membership emerged under the Guomindang (GMD) regime. The law confirmed male supremacy in the constitution of the national community by embracing married women's outsiderness and upholding the system of patrilineality. In the new millennium, legal reforms pursued by social movements have effectively reconceptualized national membership in an egalitarian, albeit incomplete, fashion. The new laws empower women's entitlement to national membership, but the extent of this empowerment remains limited. Male dominance in the drawing and redrawing of national borders is preserved through transformation. Discrimination against women functions not according to the old-fashioned mandatory commands but rather by the creation of a regulatory or disciplinary regime that compels a woman to adopt a husband's nationality and children to adopt their father's nationality. The historical retrospect of women's nationality under law hence suggests the necessity of developing new approaches to pursue and promote gender equality in the construction of national community membership.
Chao-ju Chen; Gendered Borders: The Historical Formation of Women's Nationality under Law in Taiwan. positions 1 May 2009; 17 (2): 289–314. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-2009-003
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