Taiwan sex workers demand decriminalisation of prostitution

A Taiwan sex workers’ group has urged the government to legalize the sex trade, calling on lawmakers to back a bill aimed at decriminalizing prostitution.

Campaigners believe they are just one parliamentarian short of getting enough signatures to get such a bill started in parliament.

‘We hope we can get backing from 15 lawmakers, the minimum number of lawmakers needed to send the bill to parliament,’ Wang Fang-ping, general-secretary of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS), told German Press Agency dpa.

If introduced to parliament, the bill needs to pass three readings and the the Cabinet’s approval to become law.

‘We have been fighting for decriminalization of prostitution for a long time, but I am not very optimistic,’ she said by phone.

Lawmaker Cheng Li-wen said she had gathered signatures from 14 lawmakers to push the bill to decriminalize position, one signature short of the total number required.

‘We are worried because we heard that some of the 14 lawmakers backing the bill have withdrawn their support,’ Wang said.

The bill is aimed at abolishing Clause 80 of the Bill on Maintaining Social Order. According to the clause, a provider of sex faces a maximum three-day imprisonment or a fine of 30,000 Taiwan dollars (888 US dollars) but recipient of the sex service is not punished.

Taiwan in 1957 stopped issuing license to brothels. Currently there are some 100 brothels across the island with nearly 2,000 prostitutes.

While it is legal to practice the trade in the legal brothels, police crack down on the illegal sex trade in motels, clubs and massage parlours.

According to Wang, there are some 700,000 illegal sex workers in Taiwan who face the danger of being arrested by police every day.

‘We think that every one has the right to make a living. Prostitution is only a job like other jobs, so it should be decriminalized,’ Wang said.

However, public opinion remains divided over the issue.

Some women’s groups want brothel visitors, not prostitutes, be punished, while some law enforcement personnel are firmly opposed to legalizing the sex trade.

‘I am against decriminalizing prostitution because prostitution destroys our marriage system which is the basis for social harmony,’ Prosecutor Liu Cheng-wu told reporters.


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