Wed, Jul 09, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Women's group sets sights on prostitution legislation

By Debby Wu  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters yesterday again raised the issue of the legalization of the sex industry.

Since 1997, when then Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) launched a crackdown on the city's brothels, women's groups have repeatedly highlighted concerns over the rights of sex workers and their position in society.

"The current illegal status of prostitution only gives a fat chunk of cash to some lawmakers who are connected with the business, instead of the nation's treasury," said Wang Fang-ping (王芳萍), secretary-general of the advocacy group.

"An underground sex industry also cannot guarantee rights for either the sex workers or their clients," Wang said. "Both sides may be worried that they will be cheated by the other. Plus police resources are wasted cracking down on the underground sex business."

"The politicians are usually too afraid to deal with complicated issues that are controversial and likely to turn off voters. That is why we are asking for a referendum on this issue," Wang said.

Other women's groups, however, may not be so straightforward. They adopt a more conservative stance and worry about the way business would be conducted if the industry is legalized. Most of them are more concerned with discrimination against sex workers and the law that punishes the prostitutes but not the men who are paying for their services.

CEO of the Awakening Foundation Wu Wei-ting (伍維婷) said that the foundation's stand over this issue was that they supported the decriminalization of the sex industry

"Legalization, however, would mean that this industry becomes an official one, and then where are the regulations?"

Wu said that they would support legalization because legal regulations and measures might mean less exploitation of female sex workers.

"The legalization of the industry must be based on the protection of sex workers, the elimination of discrimination against them and the easiness for them to move in and out of the industry."

Secretary-General of End Child Prostitution Association Taiwan Lee Li-fen (李麗芬), together with Wu, said that whether a body could be a product or a service to be sold remained a controversial issue.

"The legalization of the sex industry cannot prevent children's entry in to this field since there are still some out there who prefer sex with children," Lee said. "I do not think the legalization of prostitution will lessen the problem of child prostitution."

Stronger opposition can be heard from other women's groups.

Garden of Hope Foundation CEO Chi Hui-jung (紀惠容) said if the central government legalized the industry, the government would in effect be saying that it is alright for women to enter the industry.

"The sex industry is not about the autonomy of sexuality, but about economic disadvantages. Most women enter the industry because they are suffering from economic problems. Women's economic disadvantages are what the government should work on, instead of the legalization of the sex industry. The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters is handling the issue in too simplified a way," Chi said.

Chi, Lee and Wu said that it was unfair that the law only punishes female sex workers while male clients are let go. They said that if the country wants to punish people for making sex deals, at least the prostitutes and the clients should be punished equally.

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