Taiwan Sex Workers Experience the Ma Ying-jeou Shuffle

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Sunday March 09, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Sex is in the air, not only in China but also in Taiwan. As Taiwan's presidential elections approach, the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters (COSWAS) called upon the candidates to make prostitution legal in Taiwan. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Frank Hsieh pledged that he would work to decriminalize prostitution if elected. Ma Ying-jeou, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate on the other hand did his usual Taiwan shuffle off to avoiding responsibility.

Surprise, surprise, surprise! Ma is avoiding responsibility and commitment to anything. Instead, as a COSWAS member observed Ma wants to shift responsibility to the public; ah such leadership! When the going gets tough, Ma passes the buck.

A little history is in order here. In 1997, Chen Shui-bian, as then mayor of Taipei had clamped down on prostitution. In 1999, when Ma became mayor of Taipei he made a big public show that he would grant any remaining brothels a two-year grace period. The Pan-blue papers were filled with photos and stories on how Ma was so compassionate; how he grieved for the sex trade workers and would develop training programs to integrate them into society. Such dreams, such promises, does it sound familiar?

Now here is where the Taiwan media falls flat on its face and this is why Ma Ying-jeou can continually trade on promises and not worry about responsibility or delivery. After all the hoopla and probable expense has anyone done a survey to see how effective Ma's promised program was? Are there any statistics on how many sex workers were integrated back into society? Were there any programs even set up? No to examine that is too much work; there is no sensationalism here; that is not quite the media's cup of tea.

So now, some six to seven years after the great program of Ma the Compassionate was to have cleaned the streets of the sex trade business what do we have? 300 sex workers have taken to the streets to ask for the legalization of prostitution. And Ma's program? What they are still there? Looks like Ma's program was still born. Like many of his programs, after the media photos and exposure are gone, Ma drops the program and looks for the next photo-op. Can anyone smell the coffee?