Taiwan ended 38 years of martial law on July 15, 1987, in an epoch-making change that helped usher in the country’s democratic metamorphosis.
Over the past 25 years, Taiwan has continued to remove the shackles of old political restrictions. More importantly, it has largely accomplished the emancipation and liberation of personal mindsets, social culture and collective consciousness. The thriving political scene and flourishing social activism have helped boost the development of the creative and cultural industries in recent years. They are the fruits of the lifting of martial law in the late president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) final months.
Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容), chief executive officer of the Garden of Hope Foundation, said women’s social movements have undergone significant changes over the past quarter-century. Before the lifting of martial law, Chi recalled, few people would take part in social activities centered on women’s issues. In the Martial Law era, there were few women’s groups. The largest-scale women’s social movement during that period was a drive to rescue child prostitutes in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Chi said.
Although she and her colleagues at the Garden of Hope tried very hard to persuade the public to take part in its activities for the cause, they could only mobilize 100 to 200 people to take part each time.
“Therefore, women’s groups usually promoted their causes by publishing magazines or organizing reading clubs,” Chi said.
That situation has changed since the lifting of martial law. Many women’s groups have sprung up throughout the country and their structures have become better organized, Chi said. In addition to staging street rallies or demonstrations, she said, major women’s groups have since devoted more efforts to pushing for legal amendments to better protect women’s rights and interests.
“Women’s social movements have changed substantially over the years. We have moved from the streets to communities. We have toned down our emotions and focused on educational work to have women’s rights concepts take root in society. Even if we take to the streets on some occasions, we tend to present skits or organize carnival-style activities to promote our causes,” Chi said.
In the future, she said, local women’s movements should devote more energy to the themes of global concerns such as human trafficking and women’s employment amid ever-increasing globalization. Moreover, Chi said, future women’s movements should give priority to pushing for social structural changes for the benefits of women and to increasing disadvantaged women’s ability to stand on their own feet, make choices and transform those choices into action.
Taiwan Rural Front spokeswoman Tsai Pei-hui (蔡培慧) said the end of martial law has offered local farmers more channels to communicate with the government on rural and agricultural issues. According to Tsai, the 2010 Dapu farmland seizure for an industrial park development project in Miaoli marked a new milestone in local farmers’ movements.
“The controversy stirred up wide attention. Besides farmers from other parts of the country, many academics, students and ordinary citizens also took part in street rallies against the farmland seizure,” Tsai said, adding that the row was a watershed in local farmers’ movements.