In early November, Taiwan revised the Social Order Maintenance Act in which prostitution is legal in designated red-light districts. However, no local governments have been willing to create these zones. This is a highly controversial matter and there are split opinions on this issue. People in Taiwan believe that setting up a red-light district would increase crime and decrease property values. In addition to the legalization of red light district, a new amendment also proposes that both sex workers and their customers could be fined up to NT$30,000 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.
Prior to the amendment, clients were not punished; only prostitutes were. This brings up an issue on equality of genders. In the United States, prostitutes, clients, pimps, and brothel owners are all fined. However in Sweden, paying for sex is illegal, but selling it is not. No matter what, women are at a disadvantage and men should pay for the social cost they cause as well. By fining only the sex workers, they are pretty much blaming the women and declining their statuses. Some may think women should not objectify themselves by using their bodies as instruments of their occupations. But women should also not be penalized for what they choose their occupations to be.
Just last week, “Keelung City is studying the possibility of setting up red light districts as allowed under a recently passed law amendment,” said Mayor Chang Tung-jung. Keelung is the first city to openly consider setting up a designated area for sex trade. Having designated areas where prostitution is legal may be safer for both clients and prostitutes in the long run. By legalizing prostitution in designated areas, the government is taking more responsibility of this matter that has been shied away for years. No matter what, prostitution is here to stay, making it illegal will not eliminate the presence of prostitution. It is better to take responsibility and regulate prostitution, which in turn may regulate and stop illegal sex trade of women and children, protect sex workers, provide safer environments for sex workers, lower STD risks of clients and workers, etc.
[Photo courtesy of Global Post]