Well lets face it. Prostitution is once again rearing its head as an issue in Taiwan. Sometimes I am a realist, and sometimes I am an idealist. When it comes to prostitution I am a realist. The fact remains that nowhere in the world has any government successfully eradicated prostitution. Some countries have even instituted the death penalty and dismemberment. It is a fact of life, and no matter how you feel about it you aren’t going to stop it. In last years November 7th session in Taiwan one of the discussion points was prostitution. Currently in Taiwan it is illegal to be a prostitute, but it is okay to search for prostitution. This law was deemed inequitable and a choice was given to legislation, either change the law to punish both the ‘John’ and the prostitute, or eliminate this law altogether.
Past Prostitution in Taiwan
Previously in Taiwan prostitution was legal. Prostitutes had to register with the government. This registration process stopped in 1974, and in fact there are still some existing prostitutes today who are registered from many years past (scary huh?). There are three major complaints about prostitution that I have heard from the opinions of local Taiwanese on this issue. Complaint 1, aboriginal and young girls were forced into prostitution against their will. Complaint 2, there was no zoning separation between regular residential areas and red light districts, I happen to know a person who currently lives in one of these districts and they really are not happy about it. Complaint 3, too many girls are lured in by materialistic wants (i.e. they want a new LV purse and cant afford it so they go into prostitution).
Current Prostitution in Taiwan
Current prostitution in Taiwan is an interesting gang relationship with the police. Basically there are 4 major areas of prostitution and KTVs all over the place that have ‘alternative services’. The police are paid off to ignore these areas, and typically the places where the police raids occur are independent operators that haven’t paid up recently. Prostitution in Taiwan is riddled with ‘older operators’ many of whom are old enough to have been registered prior to 1974 . There are many independent ‘college girls’ online who ‘need school money’, and a few paper based call in services. There is no protection for independent operators from rape and theft, and as anywhere there is protection by gangs but at the price of giving services to the gang, or being forced to service clients of their choice. Honestly gangs are not great protection, but they keep you from being arrested. From an outsiders opinion, this is not a safe occupation and its better to go with the ‘dating service for a fee’ services. Ultimately there are no health exams and many dangerous situations.
As of the Nov 7th session result, a legislative decision mandating that the current prostitution laws are inequitable and effective 6 months from that date, the law is dissolved. Further stipulations are in place stating that zoning needs to be resolved and 2 years hence a final solution needs to be in place. This means that all final decisions will be made in this years November 7th legislative session, in order for the laws to take place the following year. Broken down even further, what this means is that as of this moment (this is not legal advice, but an assumption based on past information) there are currently no laws against prostitution as of early June 2010 (now). I believe that there are still laws against solicitation and there is no legal venue (designated place) for prostitution.
Future Prostitution in Taiwan
This is where everything has become hush hush. But my sources lead me to believe that Kaohsiung County, Taichung County, Tainan County, Penghu County, Hsinchu City, Taichung City and Pingtung County have agreed to set up special zoning for prostitution and Taipei City has rejected outright, however Taipei County (now Xin Bei City) has agreed. I don’t know if this agreement will still be effective if Tsai Ein-Wen is elected, but there is currently approval.
My wish list for prostitution in Taiwan
The whole reason that I am excited for legal prostitution in Taiwan is safety and protection. I want to see the following mandates, 1) Regular, but unannounced official spot checks on the working conditions and age of workers 2) Approval of personal licenses (even though they say that individual licensing wont occur) that are only valid if regular health checks are performed for STD’s 3) All burdens of healthcare, health checks, and any other company requirements of sex workers are those of the employer and are not considered a debt of the employee (too many people force prostitutes by saying that they owe them money for paying for health checks or company required beauty treatments or dress) 4) Locations of services are to be at the primary place of business within the supervision of the premises security/staff, or gps emergency responders are to be provided to each worker and it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure safe transport to and from any location outside of the primary place of business. 5) Employees of sex services are entitled to all rights and privileges of the Taiwan Labor Law. 6) Any person under the age of 18 is not allowed within an area zoned for sex work for any reason at the liability of the principle business owner and no transactions or solicitation of services are to be performed outside of; the primary place of business, a private residence or within public view. 7) No area zoned for sex work will be visible or within 500 meters of a school, business whose primary services target children under the age of 18, or within 500 meters of a zoned residential area.
I truly hope this endeavor improves the life of those involved, rather than the shortsighted view that prostitution is wrong. Saying prostitution is wrong does not stop it, has not stopped it and will not stop it. While I have great respect for the Garden of Hope and the services they provide, just like the failure of communism; it was a great idea but planning on perfection in humanity will inevitably fail.