General Information

The Legalization of Taiwan Red Lights District: An Unending Dispute

News in Taiwan recently proliferate about bars in Taiwan Red Lights District causing the surge of Covid-19 cases in the area. The main issues were charged to the fact that the bars were strictly prohibited to operate and exist under illegal circumstances, thus, catering to customers without properly observing the needed health protocols against the pandemic. Furthermore, clients who frequented the area at Wanhua are old men who are not vaccinated, but are still allowed by over 100 establishments, specifically teahouses and hostess bars making the place known as the “shops for grandfather”.


The questions that need to be resolved heavily on this matter is whether or not bars in Wanhua should be legalized by creating Taiwan Red Lights District. In doing so, what benefits will the community or the nation gain as a whole in pivoting to the such decision?

As to the main issue, the legalization of the district of Wanhua in Taipei has already been made in 2011 by the local governments. It is a response to the Social Order Maintenance Act, Article 80 which provides for penalties for sex workers. This was deemed unconstitutional since it only sanctioned the sex workers as the culprit for being criminals and not the customers or clients who can be considered as co-principal for the criminalized act to obtain financial gains. Considering that the act cannot be done by one individual alone but with another, it is illogical and more so unfair, that sanctions and punishments shall only be burdened by the prostitutes while the customer who consented or perhaps initiated can freely get off the hook without having any accountability.

To collectively answer both issues, legalizing prostitution within the bounds of the Wanhua District shall benefit consensually both the sex workers and the clients as they would engage in sex trades without the need to evade any prohibitions that could be imposed by the local and the national government. This would also provide equal protection for both the customers and clients as maximum health protocols and regulations can be imposed by the local government with the full cooperation of the sex establishments and hospitality industry. Policies, requirements, and qualifications can be laid down by the government to ensure that sex workers are making sex trades without exposing themselves to risks or bringing the risk themselves to others, especially local and foreign customers.

Considering that prostitution is a vital catalyst for the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases, requiring the sex workers to undergo stringent health screenings and submissions before engaging themselves in the trade would be a safe passage for the clients to free themselves from worry about getting a disease. Moreover, clients shall also be obliged to show medical certifications cleared of any transmissible ailments before getting engaged in the sex trade at the Red Lights District.


The trade has been existing since time immemorial, tracing back to the time when the Japanese Imperial government occupied Taiwan and started the sex industry in the late 1890s to early 1900s in the Wanhua area. Nonetheless, the primary composition of the prostitute population was Japanese and Korean women. Taiwanese women least comprise the sex trade since they are believed to be carrying sexually transmitted diseases. The hygienic policies of the Japanese are a hypocritical system since they only inspect the sex workers and not the clients who engage in the trade. In the later period, the sex trade is conducted with fewer regulations since sex traffickers rule the trade, bringing in sex workers who work illegally under the influence of drugs or through coercion of an existing organized syndicate. This opened the situation for problems with the transmission of ailments and viruses in the locality or at the national level depending on the magnitude.


Since its legalization by the Taiwan government in 2011, the legalization of Wanhua as Red Light District remained in a status quo. Implementation of its legality was met with huge opposition coming from social groups and activists at present, contradicting the plan of allowing establishments to operate and cater to sex traders and customers. Citizens believe that it would only hasten the transmission of diseases in the area since checking of medical records is only made available for sex workers and not to customers since it will also violate their constitutional right to privacy. The business of sex trading would die mainly because no clients would disclose their health status to visit the Red Lights District or to have sexual encounters with prostitutes.

Considering that old men are the regular customers of the area, it would also be close to impossible to impose health protocols among old unvaccinated clients nor compel them to have themselves vaccinated as part of the requirements. The risk shall be taken by the establishments rather than lose customers. However, this does not sit well with social group activists who value social order and compromise the safety of everyone for the whims and caprices of the few who seek pleasure than community welfare. On this ground, the legalization of the establishments of Wanhua remains undisturbed and unimplemented.

Taiwan Red Lights District

Whether one would like it or not, sex trading in Wanhua has been existing for as long as people could remember. This is a notion that despite its legalization staying on hold, the trade will continue under the veil of secrecy. A situation like this will only heighten the problem in the health sector because regulations and sanctions cannot be imposed, and transparency cannot be upheld because no government interventions are in place. Oppositions do not realize the aftermath of putting on hold the legality of the implementation of the Red Lights District in Wanhua. Instead of regulating and monitoring the sex trades, imposing strict health protocols and sanctions for both clients and workers, and burdening the local administrators with accountability for their tasks and responsibilities, the scenario of retaining its illegality complicates a prohibited trade that remains in operation. The thought that it does not exist due to a ban on its implementation is nothing but an imaginary control that runs free in the minds of conservative social advocates. It is like saying that the air does not exist because no one can see it with their naked eyes.

The Red Lights District in Wanhua remains, with or without the cloak of its legality. It’s a truth that everyone in the place knows, but fails to recognize and admit.

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