Back in 1992, the Taiwanese government decided to ban prostitution. You could think that the good old days were finished for lonely Taiwanese guys? Really? Wait, in its great generosity, the Government decided to allow 30 prostitutes, not one more and not one less, to practice their work legally. It is unclear to me what motivated the government to do so, but even less clear is why they allowed, among those 30 somehow privileged women, to let a 10 years-old girl remain a prostitute legally!
In 2011, the government has decided to reintroduce legal prostitution, and i can think of 2 reasons for that:
-anyway prostitution is a reality, like anywhere else in the world,
-the ban has led to arrival of illegal immigrants from China and control by the powerful mafia rings.
But the official reason is a more ideal one: banning sex workers would infringe on the human declaration of rights and thus be illegal in the system of the 三民主議.
Maybe also, it would be some kind of weird political argument: while DPP, the democratic party, may have upset some, back in 1992, the current KMT government would be seen as more liberal than its competitor. This is pure speculation though, since I can’t really imagine what’s the opinion of Taiwanese on this topic.
Based upon this, the government asked all cities to devote a space where prostitution could be freely exerted.
Alas! Most if not all mayors refused to do so! A few reasons I can think of:
-This is not a good electoral argument;
-They are afraid of the mafia;
-There is no space to build such a district.
But actually, what may not be obvious in the news reports is that prostitution is really obvious in Taiwan in many districts, at least in Taipei. It is an open business in many parts of Taipei, and I think it illustrates the ambiguity of Taiwan towards sex in general. When we walk through Taipei at night in its most “atmosphere rich” districts, the old and decay districts where Taiwanese have often recommended me not to go, but where I never find anything dangerous, apart from great people and a community life that is more lively in the business and modern districts, we found more than once brothels that operate openly in the street, without any real cover. Actually the taiwanese version is rather friendly-looking; prostitutes are usually older -my first reflexion was to deem them as unattractive- but as my girlfriend says, who else would accept to deal with older customers? And she adds that old women have more experience… I won’t judge here! Those ladies are waiting for customers in the street while chatting, making up, or just hanging around, every time it seems that conversations are raging between them. The real funny part is that brothel institutions are often to be found around the biggest temples (a much cooler idea from religion than practiced in Europe). They are made of very tiny boxes, almost like stalls, in which… you hear very interesting noises, all at once! I am not too sure about privacy over there, but anyway it seems that most customers are not newbies either. Screams of pleasure of men enjoying the freedom given to them by this finally-human-right-compatible activity occasionally reach our ears.
The old stalls full of screaming customers left me puzzled, it seems so normal and natural, close to an everyday life everyone has gotten accustomed to for so long, with or without sense of law. To me, this is another difference with Europe, that is common in Asia: law is something that rules people, but few people actually believe in what’s lying behind: you just can or can’t do something, if you ain’t caught, well… Maybe it’s worth trying!
So people have been living there for so long, and I could tell that they care little about the legality of their business, but rather on some idea of erotism I didn’t think about. Probably, here, as anywhere else, life must be tough and there must be some competition-I see younger girls treated roughly by older ones, men who do not especially seem friendly, they all defend their KTV, defend their territory, fight for expansion. In this context, seduction is a weapon, and similar to when I go on the streets packed with gears for taking pictures, those women have a full arsenal of make up, creams and powders which helps them stay at the forefront of this daily war. I am struck to find mostly old people in the brothels of Taipei, and when you are older, seduction becomes, obviously, another kind of game, that gets closer to survival and attractiveness, a vital instinct that won’t die and gets a touching expression in those small clustered stalls, ridiculous in appearance, but so crucial indeed. Behind the smiles, there’s a resignation i’ve seen somewhere else, an anguish that points: am i still beautiful and am i still attractive?