During World War II, women were taken to serve the sexual needs of soldiers in some Asian countries. After the war and government had changed, registered “public” prostitutes and illegal “private” ones began to proliferate in Taiwan. During an effort of Taipei city to reform, the registered prostitutes faced the danger of losing their livelihood. Women’s groups and human rights groups, with different ideologies and approaches, tried to help. The process of revising related laws started. In fighting for their rights, social activists brought Western prostitute right advocates to promote “adult voluntary prostitution” to influence legislation. While trafficking of adolescents and children for prostitution is condemned by all, there must be a shift in looking at the adult woman from a helpless victim to an active agent who chooses to engage in sex work. When prostitution is recognized as “work”, the prostitutes can demand rights and benefits of a worker thereby avoiding exploitation from middle persons, police, etc. Traditional Christian reasoning seem irrelevant to this situation and there has not been a formal Catholic voice. A small group of ecumenical women theologians discussed and searched literature in order to find some way to respond. As part of the above effort, the paper reviews the historical accounts of public prostitution; pays attention to the persons and their arguments for adult voluntary prostitution; reflects on work, body, sexuality, and related issues from a faith perspective inspired by the Scriptures; and lastly, suggests an appropriate pastoral response to the situation. Attempts are made to discuss what actually has great significance but has NOT been said in the Church documents such as: Why do women voluntarily choose to be engaged in sex work; what are the social-cultural economic elements involved? How free is “free choice”? What are the implications on either side? The question of morality versus justice is also raised.
Theresa Yih-Lan Tsou, sss,, Taiwan is a member of the Sisters of Social Service of Los Angeles in Taipei. She is secretary-general of the Taiwan Catholic Sprout Women-Concerns Association. She is a psychiatrist at Ming-En Mental Hospital, Yingko, Taipei Hsien. She is a graduate of the Medical College of National Taiwan University, with postgraduate training in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation from State University of New York at Buffalo Affiliated Hospitals (SUNYAB).