[3064] Social groups struggle to agree on decriminalization of prostitution

3064 Edition
November 15~24, 2010
Headline News

Social groups struggle to agree on decriminalization of prostitution

Reported by Lin Yi-ying, Chen Yi-hsuan

Written by Lydia Ma

Around this time last year, as grand justices in Taiwan began mulling over details of the Public Order Maintenance Act pertaining specifically to prostitution, PCT General Assembly started a new committee called Gender Justice Committee. At the time, grand justices ruled that it was unconstitutional to punish prostitutes without also punishing those who seek their services.

So, on October 13th, 2010, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) announced that, in accordance with Article 7 of the ROC Constitution, neither prostitutes nor their customers would be punished and prostitution would henceforth become legal. It also announced that policies regulating prostitution would be in place before November 2011.

This week, Taiwan Church News is exploring the history of prostitution in Taiwan and its road to decriminalization. Besides using other countries as case studies, we will take a look at what experts are saying about achieving the delicate balance between safeguarding a prostitute’s right to work and opposing sexual abuse.

Though the term “prostitute” in Taiwan has more or less been replaced with the term “sex worker” in recent years to lessen stigma, there remains much discrimination against prostitutes. It wasn’t until grand justices referred to Article 80 of the Public Order Maintenance Act to decriminalize prostitution and the MOI announced it’d follow up with laws regulating prostitution that sex workers finally began to see light at the end of the tunnel.

However, attempts at regulating legalized prostitution have so far proven to be easier said than done. As of October 2, 2010, and after conducting many forums and workshops, the MOI has confirmed there won’t be any commercial zones set aside for prostitution. It has also barred prostitutes from setting up shops near schools, religious buildings, or residential areas. So far, MOI is only allowing sex workers to set up small studios shared by 3 to 5 people – commonly known as “one-woman brothels”.

Commenting on the difficulties involved in decriminalizing and regulating prostitution, some public service employees remarked that national-level government agencies view the implementation of this policy a hot potato they’d much rather pass on to local governments.

Asked to give her take on this policy, PCT Women’s Ministry Committee Secretary Lee Hsing-ling replied that PCT would oppose legalization of prostitution all the way, but the church would continue to reach out and help sex workers.

Lee said that government support for “one-woman brothels” not only contradicts biblical principles, but also contradicts gender equality, as it reduces women to a commodity and fails to cherish them as part of God’s creation. She worries that decriminalization of prostitution will merely exacerbate social and human depravity.