Tue, Apr 14, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Prostitution bill triggers debate

TIME FOR CHANGE? KMT Legislator Cheng Li-wun said decriminalizing prostitution would help sex workers as it is now impossible for them to seek help from the police

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cheng Li-wun’s (鄭麗文) proposal to decriminalize prostitution received a mixed reaction from legislators yesterday.

When asked for comment, KMT Legislator Yang Li-huan (楊麗環) said she had doubts about the possible impact on the nation’s traditional ethics.

“After all, there is a significant difference between the traditional morality in Taiwan and the West’s ideas about sex,” Yang said.

“If we abolish punishment for prostitutes, the bill could deal a blow to society,” she said.

KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said it would be very difficult for the legislature to pass the bill as legalizing prostitution remains a controversial issue.

The legislators were responding to a bill proposed by Cheng last week that would amend the existing law under which prostitutes are punished but their clients are not.

The Social Order Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) allows law enforcement authorities to detain prostitutes for a maximum of three days and fine them up to NT$30,000 (US$880).

Authorities also have the power to send prostitutes to correction institutions for a period of between six months and 12 months.

Cheng’s proposal seeks to abolish these regulations and to legalize sexual transactions between consenting adults.

Cheng, who had previously sent her legislative aides to probe the issue at the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters, told reporters on Sunday that decriminalizing prostitution would help sex workers as current legislation makes it impossible for them to seek assistance from law enforcement authorities if they suffer violence, abuse or discrimination.

Her proposal garnered enough signatures for it to be discussed on the legislative floor.

Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) on Sunday said legislators could hold public hearings to gauge public opinion on the issue.

KMT Legislator Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) said he supported the bill under the precondition that the government takes strict measures to manage the sex industry.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus whip Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) said the caucus has not taken a position on the issue.

“Different DPP legislators have different positions, and I think it will be hard to form a consensus on such a controversial issue,” Lee said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RICH CHANG

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