TAIPEI, Taiwan, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Although Taiwan recently legalized prostitution in designated red-light districts, the trade remains largely underground, officials say.
Under the Social Order Maintenance Act, which went into effect in early November, prostitution was legalized in red-light districts; however, no local governments have been willing to establish these zones, effectively keeping prostitution illegal throughout Taiwan, CNN reported.
"You [the government] tell us that both the sex worker and the client would not be penalized within the district, but where is it?" said Chung Chun-chu, secretary general of the Collective of Sex Workers and Supporters. "So far, none of the local governments have any plans to create red-light districts."
County and city mayors have expressed concern that creating prostitution districts could lead to increased crime and lowered property values.
"We will not consider opening a sex trade zone because there is no public consensus on this highly controversial issue," said Edward Zhang, spokesman for the Taipei City Government.
Currently, both sex workers and customers could be fined up to $994 if found engaging in prostitution outside of the designated areas. Brothels operating outside of red-light districts face fines of up to $1,655.
The new law is aimed at protecting sex workers, but Mei Hsiang, a prostitute working in Taipei, is worried that it may effect her income as no red-light districts have been established.
"Punishing the clients is worse than punishing us because the clients will not come for fear of being caught and fined and we won't be able to make a living," she said.