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Historic Wenmeng Building in Taipei that symbolizes the history of protests against the criminalization of prostitution has to move out of the building due to the hype of the investors and the urban renewal project. Collective Of Sex Workers And Supporters (COSWAS) announced the purchasing of the building through fundraising to preserve this monument of prostitute rights and public asset.

Apple Daily reports, Wenmeng Building located on the Guisui Street used to be the accommodation for the then legal prostitutes, and later became the demonstration base for protesting against the criminalization of prostitution. The owner of the site has requested to the court to expel the COSWAS from the building and resulted in the judge’s decision that COSWAS has to return the building on June 18.

Secretary of COSWAS Wu Ruo-ying says that after the sentence came down, she felt sorry for the conservative Taiwanese judicial system and judges. They chose to stand by individual interests rather than public welfare when they conflicted with each other.

Mrs. V, one of the authors from the blog Queerology, wrote an article pointing out that since prostitution became illegal in 1997, the Taipei City Government has never cared about anything regarding the prostitutes. Both Hau Lung-pin and Ko Wen-je have never contributed any effort to the preservation of the historical buildings. Even though Ko has brought up an urban renewal project, no uplifting news has been released so far.

PTS reports, since there is only one remaining chance for issuing an appeal in this case and though COSWAS said they would keep on issuing the appeal, but if they lose, the conviction will be affirmed and they will have to move out the building before the end of this year. Therefore COSWAS resorted to the public for raising money from the ransom sheet. Each sheet costs NT$ 330 (approximately US$ 10) and COSWAS aims to reach 10,000 copies to retrieve the Wenmeng Building from the owner.

Wu Ruo-ying emphasizes that the public fundraising is to make the people participate in the movement as well as let them realize that Wenmeng Building is a public cultural asset. COSWAS says that when the real estate value overrides everything, more oppression is put on the low-level sex industry to survive. People have to make Wenmeng Building public and let the historic site continue to tell stories of prostitution. This is how people can face the discrediting of criminalization imposed on the sex industry by the society and eliminate the doubts and fears.

The fundraising project has been launched for 15 days now, and currently there are 2,279 people willing to co-purchase the Wenmeng Building together, bringing up the number of funds to NT$ 3.24 million (approximately US$ 99,000). More than 2,000 supporters come from different fields, including craftsmen, blue-collar workers, high school students, elementary school teachers, full-time housewives, civil servants, workers in organizations and so on.

There are supporters that say, “Because of Wenmeng Building, I understand how to teach my children,” “Wenmeng Building makes me face my sexual desire,” “No matter what kind of history, even though it may hold different opinions or stands, it’s worth remaining space for public discussion.” The COSWAS believes that being capable of passing down different voices is the significance of Wenmeng Building.

Translated by June and Vic
Edited by Olivia Yang