Legislature to hold public hearings on red-light areas

FORCING THE ISSUE::Surveys suggest few if any of the cities or counties in Taiwan are interested in establishing legal red-light areas over social order fears

Staff Writer, with CNA

Sun, Jul 17, 2011 - Page 3

The Legislative Yuan, which is currently in summer recess, has decided to hold public hearings during its next session on a controversial amendment that would allow the establishment of legal red-light areas in cities and counties in Taiwan, according to lawmakers.

At issue is a draft amendment to the Social Order and Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) that would legalize prostitution in specially designated areas.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislative caucus whip Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said the bill had been the subject of heated debate.

Some local governments have even suggested that the establishment of red-light districts runs against social mores and Taiwanese culture, he said.

The Executive Yuan adopted the amended bill on Thursday, which rules that those involved in the sex trade — including prostitutes and those who seek out their services — outside special designated red light areas would be liable for a fine of up to NT$30,000 (US$1,040).

The current law prohibits sex work as harmful to social norms of behavior and punishes only sex workers — mainly women — who are subject to a maximum of three days detention or a fine of up to NT$30,000.

However, those who solicit the services of a prostitute cannot be prosecuted.

Earlier this year, the Council of Grand Justices of the Constitutional Court ruled that existing regulations concerning prostitution violate the Constitution, and therefore ruled that they should be annulled, a ruling that takes effect on Nov. 1.

It was in response to the ruling that the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) proposed the amendment based on the human rights laid down in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, officials said.

Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) said that the amendment would authorize local governments to set up special zones for legal brothels on land designated for commercial use in urban planning districts or for leisure activities in non-urban planning districts.

He said that once the draft bill cleared the legislature, local government administrators would handle the issue in a more pragmatic manner.

“After all, it is bad to see unlicensed prostitutes wandering around cities,” he said.

However, the proposal has received only a lukewarm response from local governments, with surveys conducted by local media suggesting almost all of the 22 cities and counties around Taiwan are not interested in establishing legal red light areas, because of concerns about the possible impact on social order.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Chao Li-yun (趙麗雲) said further public debate on the provisions in the bill was necessary