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Секс работники требуют клятвы перед выборами

A group of 300 sex workers and their supporters took to the streets yesterday to call on the presidential candidates to make prostitution legal, prompting Democratic Progressive Party presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) to commit himself to decriminalizing prostitution if elected.

The criminalization of prostitution violates the rights of sex workers to work in safe conditions, the protesters said, urging Hsieh and his rival, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential hopeful Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), to abolish Article 80 of the Social Order and Maintenance Act (社會秩序維護法), which stipulates that selling sexual services is illegal, but that paying for such services is not.

In response, Hsieh signed an agreement to decriminalize prostitution within two years if elected. The group welcomed Hsieh's gesture and said it hoped it was not just an election ploy to garner votes.

Ma's campaign team declined to make any commitments, saying only that Ma would take their plea into consideration.

Ma's camp said there was no public consensus on whether prostitution should be legal, adding that Ma would hold public hearings on the matter if elected.

The Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS), which organized the demonstration, said they were not completely satisfied with the responses of either camp, but added that time would tell if the winning candidate was sincere.

"It seems that Ma is shifting responsibility for solving this issue onto the public," COSWAS member Chung Chun-chu (鍾君竺) said, urging the KMT candidate to take a clear stance before the election.

In September 1997, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who was then mayor of Taipei, illegalized brothels, which had been legal in the city, in an effort to curb the growing sex trade.

COSWAS said that decision has devastated the lives of many sex workers, who had no other way to make a living. Forced to continue working illegally, the workers also lost all legal options for recourse if they were hurt or cheated by customers, COSWAS said.

Before the clampdown, prostitutes could charge customers between NT$800 and NT$1,000 per 15 minutes and could demand their customers wear condoms or else refuse to have sex with them. Following the crackdown, working conditions have deteriorated drastically, COSWAS said, with most prostitution rings controlled by the mafia.

In 1999, when Ma became mayor of Taipei, he granted a two-year grace period for remaining brothels to close shop.
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Source: Taipei Times, Taipei