Taiwan Legalizes Prostitution After Campaign By Sex Trade Workers
Taiwan passed legislation to legalize prostitution on Wednesday, June 24 2009. Taiwan decided to legalize prostitution because of sex workers who campaigned to have the same rights for protection as their clients.
“Now the client gets off free, but the prostitute gets punished, and that’s not fair,” spokesman Su Jun-pin said.
Taiwan’s cabinet will issue regulations within six months, when new regulations take effect, covering locations in Taiwan approved for prostitution.
The new legislation reverses a decision to criminalize prostitution that was made by the Taiwanese government 12 years ago in 1997. The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters argues that this led to the deterioration of working conditions for prostitutes and that it enabled criminal gangs to increase their influence on the sex industry.
However, the Taipei Times, one of three major English-language newspapers in Taiwan, published an editorial which expressed concern that the legalization of prostitution would not prevent the deterioration of work conditions for prostitutes or decrease the influence of gangs.
Yet the paper also noted the the criminalization of prostitution has has a severe negative impact on sex workers:
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.
The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters, a Taipei-based advocacy group, estimates that 600,000 people are involved in sex-related jobs.
In its decision to legalize prostitution, Taiwan follows in the footsteps of many countries, like New Zealand and Australia, who have recently chosen to legalize or decriminalize the sex trade.
A heated debate about whether or not prostitution should be legalized is currently underway in different locales around the world, especially in cities that are hosting major sporting events in 2010, such as Vancouver (Winter Olympics) and Capetown (World Cup).
Proponents of legalization argue that it would help to curb human trafficking, protect prostitutes from harm, and enable the sex worker's right to choose; however, those who argue against prostitution say that legalization would expand the industry for the benefit of pimps, rather than women and children, while making it acceptable to buy women's bodies.