Taiwan women’s rights groups balk at decriminalizing prostitution

Women’s rights groups came together to denounce the government’s plan to decriminalize prostitution and allow sex workers to set up small businesses, challenging the administration’s stance by asking whether it wished to boost the sex trade industry or reduce it.

At a press conference centered around the theme of “Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation,” members of The Garden of Hope Foundation and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation called for Executive Yuan Premier Wu Den-yih to withdraw plans to completely decriminalize the sex trade by the end of this year.

They stressed that until the social community reaches a consensus on the issue, the government should not implement a timetable and make relevant policies or legislation in haste.

Premier Wu has responded to the claims by clarifying that discussions on the topic are currently in the public hearing stage and have not yet become legislative policies.

The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) said four public hearings have been conducted since August and that the current announcements were made in line with expert and scholarly opinions at the hearings.

The MOI announced on Wednesday its plan to decriminalize the sex trade and allow prostitutes to operate small-scale business brothels in proposed “sex zones.”

Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation director Kang Shu-hua described the government’s declaration as shirking management responsibilities from the central government to its local counterparts, a sign of the government making the sex trade a legitimate industry, thus jeopardizing the disadvantaged women by exposing them to the control of crime syndicates.

Lee Li-fen, a spokesperson for End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) Taiwan said that written in the Grand Justices Council Adjudication Act is the idea that the administration will help disadvantaged women with vocational training, counseling, education, employment or other means to enhance their work capacity and economic situation in order to eliminate sex trade as a means of livelihood.

However, the MOI policy has not only inadvertently presented prostitution as the central means of livelihood for vulnerable women, Lee argued, but also demonstrates that the administration cares only for policies that are easy and expedient though completely ignoring the wellbeing of disadvantaged women.

According to Wang Yue of the Garden of Hope Foundation, the MOI is leaning towards the one-woman brothel model of Hong Kong by trying to integrate sex work with public life, thus condoning the industry of sexual transactions. By opening this window, Wang described the government as ushering in the operations of the underworld, giving more opportunities to crime syndicates in the issue of human trafficking.

All the women’s rights group who attended the “Coalition against Sexual Exploitation” were firmly against the legalization of the sex trade. Describing themselves as strong advocates in reducing the sex industry, the women did say they were for the punishment of clients, who on top of being penalized, should contribute “social monetary donations” to foundations for disadvantaged and sexually abused women.

Taiwan’s existing law bans prostitution, although if caught in the act, sex workers are the ones punished while their clients are free from persecution.



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