Caption: Photo: Japanese Geisha
Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in Asian culture that stems all the way back to 1940’s when the Japanese had control of Taiwan and introduced geisha houses where beautiful Japanese women would engage in conversation with business men and serve them their food or drinks. Geisha houses were turned into escort services and people from Taiwan could exchange sex for money. Some of the women were often introduced to become an escort as an effort to help their family become financially stable. They believed that providing sexual services under their parent’s instructions would be considered a
which meant it was a virtue of respect that was owed to them. Sex workers were also recruited through the prison system to comfort men who worked in the military. These sex workers were rewarded by taking time off their sentence or allowing them to take additional luxuries to their cells.
In 1945, Chinese returned to rule Taiwan and banned the trade of sex for money. The government deemed it as an immoral problem within society which the Japanese had introduced to their culture. However, escort services still ran on the outer islands of Taiwan. During the 1960’s more young men worked in the cities who would be provided prostitution services by their hostesses in places called coffee or tea houses. It was also common practice to find prostitutes who targeted the American army bases, pubs and dancing halls, this made Taiwan's economy grow.
In 1974, a social movement began in an attempt to ban forced prostitution of Taiwanese aborigine girls.
Within East Asia some of the areas that sex workers operated from were quietly accepted by society. Even though this was the case in the 1990s, all brothels were ordered to close down in an effort to end the sex working industry. Some people did not want to make that change and continued to work through underground companies. Large scale operations which hired women workers were heavily fined. Exchanging money for sex had been made illegal, Police cracked down on street prostitution.
Caption: Photo:Taiwan Mainland Prostitution Bust
In 1997, after five decades of largely ignoring ad hoc red-light districts, including several in downtown Taipei, Taiwan started cracking down on prostitution. Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian ordered the brothels to be shut down. Prostitution was made illegal, the laws meant that the sex workers could be jailed for up to three days, fined a maximum of NT $30,000 or sent to institutions to be rehabilitated back into society.In response a lobby group which supported sex workers formed who were named Chung Chun-chu’s collective. It was then that the community began to see prostitution as a feminist movement for women to be able to work in their career of choice.
Taiwan Human Rights
In 2009, the community had realised that in a response to the laws which prohibited prostitution it had forced sex workers who relied so heavily on the income of their job, to work privately hidden from the public eye. This meant they were not protected and were more susceptible to become victims of verbal and physical abuse. This caused people to change their views and see it as a matter of human rights. The Taiwanese government had found that people who consented to the exchange money for sex was a personal matter in reflection of a person’s religious and educational beliefs. This belief is what caused them to agree that it would be treated like other jobs within the community. The workers were no longer jailed but were still fined.
On the 4th of November in 2009, two days before the law was due to expire Taiwan’s parliament updated and extended a law which implicated the customers of prostitutes would be effected by the fines to. The law would have expired two days after the update.
During this time the Taiwan Sex Work Lobby attempted to promote the legalisation of sex workers and customers, in particularly women who walked the streets. They had also found that the local community was accepting of this change. Stephen Lakkis, director of the Center for Public Theology at Taiwan Theological College said
“We Have The View Of The General Public. I Think The Recent Polls Have Really Been Showing That About 75 Percent Of The Population Says That They Are Approving Of Changes To The Prostitution Law And Would Consider Favourably A Legalization Of Prostitution So Long As It Doesn’t Really Happen In Their Own Backyard”.
In 2011 the laws were further changed to legalize prostitution totally in Government designates areas/zone in an effort to stabilise the community after over 15 years of debate between opposing lobbies. However the government failed to approve any area or zone as a red light district.
Sex workers had advertised their work through brothels that appeared as fake company fronts like massage parlours, nightclubs, private karaoke bars and short term stay hotels. Some of these fake companies also advertised their conservative views in regards to the services they offered but were actually offering more than what was advertised.
The change of laws had meant that the vast majority of these locations were shut down as they were not in the designated red-light districts. The Taiwan Ministry stated
“The Passage Of This Bill, Though Not Ideal, Is Still The Best Consensus Among All Sides Of The Issue”.
It was thought that between 2001 and 2007 there were about 10,500 prostitutes from mainland China that went to Taiwan as sex workers with 8000 of those arriving legally. Chung Chun-chu's Taipei-based lobby group believed that there in those years around 100,000 sex workers in Taiwan.
Taiwan Legal Prostitutes
In November of 2011, under the Social Order Maintenance Act, Taiwan legally approved a bill which accepts commercial sex work within assigned red-light districts. These districts are only to be found in areas which can easily be managed by their local government and are located a safe distance away from school zones. If sex workers work outside of these areas, the prostitutes and customers can be penalised with as much as a $1,000 fine. It has been recorded that around 600 sex workers are penalised from working on street corners each year. Setting up red light-districts away from local areas is harder to manage with no officials wanting to take on the responsibility of managing the welfare of the people involved in the sex industry.
It appears that due to Taiwan’s economy thriving from the tourism industry, sex workers have had a rise in customer numbers which is why the government had passed the laws. The changing of the laws has further increased Taiwan as a tourist hot spot due to their changing views on prostitution. Sex services can be seen to be advertised anywhere.
Prostitutes also have adult business cards which they can give to you which shows their personal details often including a photo, zodiac sign and name. They are quite organised and can let you know their individual prices and packages. Some even have different prices according to the age of the worker.