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TAIPEI (Reuters Life!) - Taiwan's government plans to allow sex workers to set up small businesses in the latest change to laws that had once forced the huge industry underground, the interior ministry said.
In a statement on its website, the ministry said it would consider brothels of three to five staff away from areas frequented by children. It will put plans to a cabinet committee by the end of the year.
The ministry ruled out earlier proposals to set up red-light districts or allow larger businesses due to concerns among members of its committee set up to study the issue that such measures would turn the sex trade into a regular industry.
Prostitution was legal only in Taiwan's capital, Taipei, until 1997 when the city authorities made it a criminal offence to be a prostitute though not to patronize one.
The government began debating new laws two years ago after pressure from prostitute groups over the unfairness of the law. In 2009 it stopped punishing sex workers.
Bars and night clubs in older parts of Taipei still teem with sex workers. Estimates from activists put the number of people involved in sex-related jobs in Taiwan at 600,000.
Reporting by Jonathan Standing and Ralph Jennings