November 18th, 2011
06:22 AM GMT
Hong Kong (CNN) - In Taiwan, legislation is moving towards legalizing the world’s oldest profession, but in practice the trade remains largely underground.
Under the revised Social Order Maintenance Act, which went into effect in early November, prostitution is legal in designated red-light districts, but so far no local governments have been willing to create these zones, rendering prostitution anywhere illegal.
“You [the government] tell us that both the sex worker and the client would not be penalized within the district, but where is it?” Chung Chun-chu, secretary general of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters told the Taipei Times. “So far, none of the local governments have any plans to create red-light districts.”
All 22 county and city mayors have expressed concern that creating prostitution districts would lead to increased crime and plummeting property values, according to an Apple Daily survey.
The new amendment also overturns Article 80 of the act which criminalized prostitutes but not their clients based on its unconstitutionality.
Now, both sex workers and their customers could be fined up to NT$30,000 ($994) for engaging in prostitution outside of these designated areas. Brothel owners operating outside the red-light districts would also face fines of up to NT$50,000 ($1,655).
This law is aimed at protecting women in the sex trade, but Mei Hsiang, a prostitute working in Taipei is worried it will affect her ability to make a living.
“Punishing the clients is worse than punishing us because the clients will not come for fear of being caught and fined and we won’t be able to make a living,” she told the Taipei Times.
Some argued that Taiwan should follow the Swedish approach to prostitution regulation. In Sweden, paying for sex is illegal, but selling it is not, meaning clients are prosecuted while prostitutes are not. Jiang Yi-huah, Minister of the Interior, argued that this sort of legislation may be unconstitutional.
But Huang Sue-ying, a member of the minority Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) questioned this claim, saying “equality means equality in essence and not equality in form. Women are at a more disadvantaged position than men, who are not prosecuted. Men have to pay for the social costs they cause.”
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