Tue, Feb 03, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Sex workers of the world unite -- at Taipei festival

RIGHTS PUSH Sex workers say presidential candidates should cough up their opinions on laws banning the sex industry, and international support is on the way

CNA AND DPA , TAIPEI

A member of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters marches underneath a placard reading ``Decriminalize sex workers'' during a demonstration in front of the Chinese Nationalist Party and People First Party's presidential campaign headquarters in Taipei yesterday.

PHOTO: LO PEI-TEH, TAIPEI TIMES

In the lead-up to a sex worker festival and rally, members of a women's rights organization joined sex workers yesterday in an appeal to presidential candidates to introduce legislation legalizing the sex industry.

Wang Fang-ping (王芳萍), the secretary-general of the Jihjihchun Association (日日春), which fights for the rights of licensed prostitutes, laborers and housewives, said presidential candidates should amend Article 80 of the Social Order Law (社會秩序法) so that neither prostitutes nor their patrons would be punished for engaging in sexual relations.

Under the law, Wang said, only those who provide sexual services are punished.

This was against world trends, as most advanced countries were legalizing their sex industries and protecting the interests of sex workers, she said.

Wang also criticized the Taipei City Government for what she called its failed attempts to crack down on illegal sex workers, pointing out that even though licensed prostitutes and other businesses had been put out of action, the city had not become "cleaner" in the process, instead making the illegal sex trade become "even more frenzied."

Wang said a rally of sex workers would be held on Saturday to take their appeal to the public.

During the rally, the responses of the presidential candidates to the sex workers' appeal would be announced, she said.

The rally is part of a five-day festival, starting Thursday, demanding respect for sex workers' rights, with sex workers from nine countries or regions participating.

The "International Whore Cultural Festival and Action Forum," organized by the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS), would attract foreign and Taiwanese sex workers, social workers and people from all walks of life, Wang said.

The festival will also include forums, workshops and concerts in addition to the march.

Visiting sex workers include individuals from the US, the UK, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, South Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong. Groups include SWOP-USA (Sex Worker's Outrage Project), Aspasie from Switzerland, Empower from Thailand and People's Solidarity for Social Projects from South Korea.

COSWAS has held four international sex workers' festivals since 1998. Similar conventions have been held in India, Nepal and the Philippines.

Wang is well-known for her efforts to protect the rights of women working in the sex industry.

During her campaign to sit on the Taipei City Council in late 2002, Wang championed legalization of the sex industry in Taipei.

She ran for a city councilor's seat representing the Chungshan and Tatung districts, which boast the largest number of brothels and other sex business locations in the city.

She was not elected.

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