Before then-Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) put an end to legal prostitution in the capital, the city was the only place in Taiwan where it was allowed. Twelve years later, however, the wisdom of his decision is hotly debated. Now, legalizing prostitution is again on the table, with the Ministry of the Interior last week proposing to set up red-light districts.
The glaring reality is that forcing sex workers into the shadows has done nothing to put an end to the business — nor to the scourges of human trafficking and exploitation that often accompany the practice. Many observers and sex workers are concerned that outlawing the trade has exacerbated these problems and left some of society’s most vulnerable women with fewer options than ever to pursue a better life for themselves and their families.
Faced with this, the government has returned to the question of whether selling sex should be legal. Red-light districts would allow the authorities to monitor an industry that is notoriously abusive toward its workers. But the proposal ignores another option with potential for greater and more equitable results: Shifting criminal responsibility for prostitution away from sex workers and onto their customers.
Article 80 of the Social Order and Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法) is a deplorable example of the chauvinist forces that linger in this society. As it stands, sex workers face prison terms and fines, while their customers have nothing to fear. The law effectively suggests sex workers are “temptresses” to blame for “social ills,” while patrons can be forgiven — even though it is their wallets that sustain the industry and its related abuses. This is incomprehensible unless one considers that the system that created the legislation was probably replete with people who themselves feared a run-in with the law.
The article is also completely ineffective and ignores the fact that the vast majority of sex workers did not enter the industry willingly — and are hoping for a way out. For prostitutes already working in wretched conditions, the threat of criminal prosecution could hardly be a better deterrent than other hardships faced on a daily basis. Threats are pointless if doors remain closed.
In April, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) proposed amending the law, but, like the Ministry of the Interior, suggested full legalization of the sex industry.
Legalized prostitution, however, has not stopped human trafficking and rampant physical abuse (including sexual assault) of sex workers in, say, Amsterdam.
The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters has decried the criminalization of prostitution in Taiwan, warning that it has led to deteriorating work conditions and has allowed gangsters to strengthen their hold on the industry. But legalizing the sex industry is unlikely to cure these ills.
This is why the Swedish model is often cited by rights advocates who want to see an end to the prosecution of prostitutes without condoning the industry’s systematic abuses. Sweden has reported steady progress in reducing prostitution by punishing customers rather than sex workers.
In its annual human rights reports, the US State Department continues to cite human trafficking and violence against women as key concerns in Taiwan. Law enforcement efforts to crack down on the perpetrators of these acts must be redoubled.
At the same time, Taiwan needs to overhaul the law to end the counterproductive persecution of a marginalized and exploited segment of society. If the best our politicians can do is oscillate between legalizing and outlawing prostitution, decades may pass with no hope of improvement.
Taiwan’s status in the world community is experiencing something really different; it’s being treated like a normal country. And not just a “normal” country, more like a valuable, constructive, democratic and generous country. This is not simply an artifact of Taiwan’s successes in combatting the novel coronavirus. It is a new attitude, weighing Taiwan’s democracy against China’s lack of it. Before I continue, I should apologize to the readers of the Taipei Times. I have not visited Taipei since the opening of the American Institute in Taiwan’s new chancery building in Neihu last year, so I was unprepared for the photograph
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) joined the UN to become its 191st member. Since then, two other nations have joined, Montenegro on June 28, 2006, and South Sudan on July 14, 2011. The combined total of the populations of these three nations is just more than half that of Taiwan’s 23.7 million people. East Timor has 1.3 million, Montenegro has slightly more than half a million and South Sudan has 10.9 million. They all are members of the UN, yet much more populous Taiwan is denied membership. Of the three, East Timor, as a Southeast Asian
At a June 12 news conference held by the Talent Circulation Alliance to announce the release of its white paper for this year, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) emphasized that, in this era of globalization, Taiwan should focus on improving foreign language and digital abilities when cultivating talent, so that it stands out from global competitors. I suggest the government should consider building a professional translation industry. If the public believes that there is a relationship between learning English and national competitiveness, then the nation must consider the social cost of language education. This should be assessed to maximise educational effectiveness: Is
There have been media reports that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) plans to hold military exercises in August to simulate seizing the Pratas Islands (Dongsha Islands, 東沙群島) in the South China Sea. In the past, only Coast Guard Administration (CGA) personnel have been stationed there, but the Ministry of National Defense has dispatched the Republic of China Marine Corps to the islands, nominally for “ex-situ training,” to prevent a Chinese attack under the guise of military drills. The move is only a temporary measure and not sufficiently proactive. Instead, the government should officially declare sovereignty over the islands and station troops