The government has decided to decriminalize prostitution but will leave the decision to set up red light districts to local governments, an official said yesterday.
The Executive Yuan's Human Rights Protection and Promotion Committee has decided to abolish Article 80 of the Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), the regulation governing sexual transactions that stipulates detention or the fining of sex workers, Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺), minister of the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC), told a press conference after a committee meeting.
Under the article, sex workers can be detained for a maximum of three days, fined up to NT$30,000 or sent to a correctional institution for a period of between six and 12 months, while customers are not subject to any punishment.
“Two years ago, several members of the committee raised the issue of inequality against sex workers, prompting the government to address the problem,” Jiang said.
At the meeting, the Ministry of the Interior and the RDEC supported the decriminalization of consensual sex between adults, based on academic research on the issue and conclusions drawn from public consultations, Jiang said.
He said that Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) had asked the ministry to propose a draft bill to manage the sex trade and sex workers within six months, saying that the abrogation of Article 80 of the Social Order Maintenance Act would only take effect when new regulations are in place.
During the transition period between now and the decriminalization of the sex trade, the government will adopt temporary measures to reduce the possibility of sex workers being punished, he said.
One of the measures will be that police officers will no longer be able to receive bonus points on their performance evaluation for arresting violators of Article 80, he said.
In response to the ministry's suggestion that red light districts should be established to better manage the sex trade, Liu was quoted by Executive Yuan Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) as saying that he would leave the decision to local governments.
Liu said that red light districts could be established in a county or city as long as the local government obtained approval from the local council.
Whether prostitution would be allowed if it takes place outside a red light district would depend on the provisions of a new management act, Jiang said.
Also included on the agenda of yesterday's meeting was the government's position on the amendment to the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), which failed to clear the legislature in the just-concluded session because of several controversial articles branded as regressive by activists.
The amendment stipulates that organizers must register their activities in advance instead of obtaining permission from police beforehand as stipulated in the current law. Activists criticized the proposal as being too strict.
Jiang quoted Liu as saying that small-scale protests should be exempted from the registration system.