Sex workers strut their stuff in street parade

AP , TAIPEI

Sun, Feb 08, 2004 - Page 2

About 200 sex workers and their supporters paraded through heavy rain in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, yesterday, demanding that anti-prostitution laws be changed.

The activists, many wearing headbands that read "decriminalize sex workers," said it was unfair to penalize sex workers but not their customers.

Prostitution is banned on the island, but widely tolerated.

Foreign supporters were among those in the parade.

Wearing a pink-and-red feather boa and long black gloves, Ruth Ross of the British-based International Union of Sex Workers said Taiwan could learn from her group's experience in forming unions.

"We believe sex workers all around the world must unite and stand up for their rights," Ross said.

She led the crowd in shouting "sex workers unite," waved a Union Jack and performed a partial striptease dance.

Other marchers were more discrete, covering their faces with masks and caps.

With Taiwan's March 20 presidential elections in mind, the activists marched from an upmarket shopping district to the campaign headquarters of the two presidential candidates.

Yesterday's parade was part of a four-day cultural festival sponsored by a local activist group, the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters. It included seminars on the experiences of sex workers in various countries, and erotic dance workshops.