Taiwan makes prostitution legal in red-light zones

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwan is legalizing the sex trade in special red-light districts and ending a ban that penalized prostitutes but not their patrons.

The island's Parliament passed the law Friday following heated debate. Protesters have decried the decades-old ban as unfair to women and called for a law to reflect today's relative gender equality.

Local governments can set aside the special districts. The new law says any sex-trade participant caught outside the zones can be fined up to $1,000. Pimps could be fined up to $1,660.

Interior Minister Chiang Yi-hua says prostitution is condoned in the special zones. He says residents may oppose it but the zones are needed to take care of "human needs."