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August 23, 2017

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Taipei urged to decriminalize sex work

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Sex workers and supporters called Tuesday for the Taipei government to legalize prostitution and criticized Mayor Ko Wen-je for trying to wash his hands of the issue.

About a dozen Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (日日春關懷互助協會) members demonstrated outside the city hall, with the group's secretary, Kuo Pei-yu, panning Ko for failing to make good on his campaign promise to start a dialogue on prostitution and government-sanctioned red light zones in Taipei.

On top of that, Kuo said, the mayor was giving the police and city government free rein to treat sex workers like "ATM machines" by having officers masquerade as clients in order to issue large fines for prostitution – a strategy she said was illegal as it induced people to commit crimes.

Kuo cited the case of one sex worker, "Miko," who was arrested by Taipei police last year after being solicited over the Internet and now faces up to NT$1 million in fines.

Many middle-aged people like Miko rely on their earnings from sex work to take care of children or sick family members and if arrested, they often receive financial penalties far beyond their means, Kuo said.

Tuesday's mobilization came after nominee for Judicial Yuan president Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) last week expressed support for the establishment of sex districts and the legalization of prostitution.

Penalizing sex workers drives them deeper underground, and only legalization can ensure the proper regulation and management of the trade, Hsu said in response to lawmakers' questions at the Legislative Yuan.

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