Legalizing sex trade in Taiwan not the answer says coalition of women’s groups

November 25th was the 10th anniversary of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The Garden of Hope Foundation in Taiwan and the Taiwan Anti-Sexual Exploitation Alliance, together with local and international allies, express our deep concern regarding the Cabinet’s recent proposal to legalize prostitution, a form of violence against women. Five international and national women’s organizations from Canada, South Korea, the UK and the US spoke in support of Taiwanese women’s opposition to legalization of prostitution at a press conference in Taipei yesterday.

The Council of Grand Justices recently ruled that Article 80 of the Social Order Maintenance Act, which penalizes prostitutes but not their customers, goes against the principle of equality and should be changed within two years. Although we welcome the ruling against punishing prostitutes, we do not support the government’s move to legalize the sex industry and establish a red light district — both of which are a violation of women’s rights. We believe that the Taiwanese government has made a critical error by failing to recognize the highly unequal relationship that exists between men and women in the sex trade.

We strongly urge the government not to legalize prostitution because it is a form of violence against women. Designating red light districts would amount to legalizing the violation of women’s rights. Legalization will only allow men to continue to treat women as commodities, with the government becoming dependent on revenue generated by this practice. Taiwan will become known internationally as a country that supplies women to other countries that have sex industries or a sex tourism destination. Many countries that have experimented with the sex industry now realize that it was a total failure: The sex industry does not decrease sexual violence against women, but turns a country into a destination for international sex tourism and trafficked women.

The majority of women who enter the sex trade do so because of poverty. We strongly urge the government to recognize the state’s responsibility to address the exploitation of poor women and girls in prostitution and to enact progressive social, economic and political policies that benefit poor women and advance equality of the genders. This brave step is recognized by many countries around the globe, including Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

Taiwan is at a critical point in promoting the rights of women and girls. We urge the government not to legalize prostitution under any circumstances and to take the following actions to protect women against sexual exploitation:

    1. Do not legalize the sex trade; prostitution is a form of violence against women, not a job. Doing so would only denigrate the value of women in the labor force as they become sex objects.

    2. Stop penalizing female prostitutes, many of whom often enter the sex trade because of poverty.

    3. Initiate social, economic and political policies that benefit poor women and advance gender equality. Prostitution should not be the only choice for women in poverty.

    4. Customers and third parties who profit from the sex trade should face legal penalties. The government should strictly prohibit any information and acts related to recruiting women into prostitution.

Garden of Hope Foundation, Taiwan
Taiwan Anti-Sexual
Exploitation Alliance, Taiwan
Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, Taiwan
ECPAT-Taiwan, Taiwan
Taiwan Women’s Link, Taiwan
Asian Women Coalition Ending Prostitution, Canada
Coalition against Trafficking in Women, USA
Equality Now, UK
Pyeong-Taek Sexual Violence Relief Center, South Korea
Sexual Assault Support Center of Ottawa, Canada

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