Prostitution in the People's Republic of China

Prostitution in the People's Republic of China

:"This article is about prostitution in mainland China. See also Prostitution in Hong Kong and Prostitution in Taiwan."

Shortly after taking power in 1949, the Communist Party of China embarked upon a series of campaigns that purportedly eradicated prostitution from mainland China by the early 1960s. Since the loosening of government controls over society in the early 1980s, prostitution in mainland China not only has become more visible, but can now be found throughout both urban and rural areas. In spite of government efforts, prostitution has now developed to the extent that it comprises an industry, one that involves a great number of people and produces a considerable economic output. Prostitution has also become associated with a number of problems, including organized crime, government corruption and sexually transmitted diseases. For example, a Communist Party official who was a top provincial campaigner against corruption has been sacked after he was caught in a hotel room with a Russian prostitute. [ [ Monsters and Critics] ] Annually, thousands of Russian women end up as prostitutes in China. [ [ VladNews] ]

Prostitution-related activities in mainland China are characterised by diverse types, venues and prices. Sellers of sex come from a broad range of social backgrounds. They are almost all female, though in recent years male prostitutes have also emerged. Venues typically include hotels, karaoke venues and beauty salons.

While the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has always taken a hard line on organisers of prostitution, it has vacillated in its legal treatment of prostitutes, treating them sometimes as criminals and sometimes as behaving with misconduct. Since the reappearance of prostitution in the 1980s, government authorities have responded by first using the legal system, that is, the daily operations of institutions like courts and police. Second, they have relied on police-led campaigns, clearly delineated periods of intense public activity, as a form of social discipline. Despite lobbying by international NGOs and overseas commentators, there is not much support for legalisation of the sex sector by the public, social organizations or the government of the PRC.

Prostitution during the Maoist era

Following the Communist Party of China's victory in 1949, local government authorities were charged with the task of eliminating prostitution. One month after the Communist takeover of Beijing on February 3, 1949, the new municipal government under Ye Jianying announced a policy to control the city's many brothels. On November 21, all 224 of Beijing's establishments were shut down; 1286 prostitutes and 434 owners, procurers, and pimps were arrested in the space of 12 hours by an estimated 2400 cadres. [See [ 罗瑞卿一夜扫除北平妓女] ["Luo Ruiqing eradicates Beiping's prostitutes in a single night"] Accessed 20 November 2005.] Not surprisingly, the Beijing campaign has been much celebrated in historical accounts.Due to the enormity of social issues that had to be addressed, and the limited budgets and human resources of local governments, most cities adopted the slower approach of first controlling and then prohibiting brothel-prostitution. [Ma Weigang (ed.), "Jinchang jindu" [禁娼禁毒: "On Strictly Forbidding Prostitution and Drugs"] (Beijing: Jugguan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1993) at 8.] This method was used in Tianjin, Shanghai and Wuhan. [See Sun Shidong, [ 新中国取缔妓院前后] ["The banning of brothels in the new China from beginning to end"] , "Zhishi chuang". Accessed 24 November 2005. Jiang Pei, [ 天津娼业改造问题述论:1949–1957] ["Discussion of questions in relation to reform of the prostitution industry in Tianjin"] . Accessed 24 November 2005.] Typically it involved a system of governmental administration which controlled brothel activities and discouraged male patrons. The combined effect of such measures was to gradually reduce the number of brothels in each city until the point where a "Beijing-style" closure of the remaining brothels was deemed feasible and reeducation could begin. Reeducation programs were undertaken on the largest scale in Shanghai, where the number of sex workers had grown to 100,000 following the Second Sino-Japanese War.

By the early 1960s, such measures had basically wiped out visible forms of prostitution from mainland China. According to the PRC government, venereal diseases were almost completely eliminated from the mainland contemporaneously with the control of prostitution. To mark this victory, all 29 venereal disease research institutes were closed in 1964.

In accordance with Marxist theory, women who sold sex were viewed as being forced into prostitution in order to survive. The eradication of prostitution was thus vaunted as one of the major accomplishments of the Communist government and evidence of the primacy of Chinese Marxism. [See for example Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, [ Historic Liberation of Chinese Women] , "The Situation Of Chinese Women", Accessed 22 November 2005; "Duanping jiefang jinü" [短评解放妓女: "A Brief Commentary on the Liberation of Female Prostitutes"] , "Renmin ribao", 22 November 1949 at 1.] Prostitution did not exist as a serious object of concern in China for a period of nearly three decades. Recent studies have demonstrated, however, that the disappearance of prostitution under the Maoist regime was far from complete. [Hershatter, G. "Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai", (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997) at 331–3; Shan Guangnai, "Zhongguo changji - guoqu he xianzai" [中国娼妓过去和现在: "Chinese Prostitution - Past and Present"] (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1995) at 3.] Pan Suiming, one of China's leading experts on prostitution, argues that "invisible" prostitution — in the form of women providing sexual services to cadres in exchange for certain privileges — became a distinctive feature of Maoist China, particularly towards the end of the Cultural Revolution. [Pan Suiming, "Jinchang: wei shui fuwu?" [禁娼:为谁服务?: The prohibition of prostitution: whom does it serve?] , in "Aizibing: shehui, lunli he falü wenti zhuanjia yantaohui" [艾滋病:社会、伦理和法律问题专家研讨会: "Report of the Expert Workshop on HIV and Prostitution: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues"] (Beijing: Academy of Social Sciences, 29–31 October, 1996) at 20–1.]

Prostitution after 1978

The resurgence of prostitution in mainland China has coincided with the introduction of Deng Xiaoping's liberalisation of Chinese economic policy in 1978. According to the incomplete statistics composed on the basis of nationwide crackdowns, the rate of prostitution in China has been rising every year since 1982. [Jeffreys, E., "China, Sex and Prostitution", (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) at 97.] Between 1989 and 1990, 243,183 people were apprehended for prostitution-related activities. [Xin Ren (1999) "Prostitution and economic modernisation of China", 5 "Violence Against Women" 1411 at 1414.] Zhang Ping estimates that such police figures only account for around 25–30 percent of the total number of people who are actually involved. [Zhang Ping (1993) "Dangjin Zhongguo shehui bing" [当今中国社会病: "Social problems in contemporary China"] 12 "Jindun" 12 at 27.] Prostitution is an increasingly large part of the Chinese economy, employing perhaps 10 million people, with an annual level of consumption of possibly 1 trillion RMB. [Zhong Wei, [ A Close Look at China's "Sex Industry"] . Accessed 30 November 2005.] Following a 2000 police campaign, Chinese economist Yang Fan estimated that the Chinese GDP slumped by 1%, as a result of decreased spending by newly unemployed female prostitutes. [Zhong Wei, note 10.]

The revival of prostitution was initially associated with China's eastern, coastal cities, but since the early 1990s at least, prostitution practices have also been widespread in the economic hinterlands, incorporating such remote and underdeveloped regions as Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet. [Hewitt, D., [ Teenage prostitution case shocks China] "BBC News". Accessed 2 December 2005.] In the 1980s, the typical seller of sex was a poorly educated, young female rural migrant from populous, relatively remote provinces such as Sichuan and Hunan. Over the past decade, there has been a recognition that the majority of women who enter prostitution do so of their own accord. [Jeffreys, E., note 6 at 98. See also Gil, V.E., Wang, M.S., Anderson, A.F., Guo, M.L. and Wu, Z.O. "Plum blossoms and pheasants: prostitutes, prostitution, and social control measures in contemporary China" (1996) 38 "International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology" 319.] The potential benefits of prostitution as an alternative form of employment include greater disposable income, access to upwardly mobile social circles and lifestyle options. The state-controlled media have focused attention on urban residents engaging in prostitution, especially university-educated women. [See for example Wang Haibo, [ 女大学生卖淫,我不相信是假新闻] ("Female university students selling sex, I don't believe it's false news"), "Hong wang", 3 July 2003. Accessed 24 November 2005.] There also seems to be a growing acceptance of prostitution. In a 1997 study, 46.8% of undergraduates in Beijing admitted to having considered receiving prostitution services. [Pan Suiming, [ 中国红灯区纪实] ("A true record of China's red-light districts"). Accessed 15 December 2005.] On the demand side, prostitution has been associated with the gender imbalances brought about by the one-child policy. [McCurry, J. and Allison, R., [,7369,1165129,00.html 40m bachelors and no women ... the birth of a new problem for China] , "The Guardian", 9 March 2004. Accessed 2 December 2005.]

Prostitution is often directly linked to low-level government corruption. Many local officials believe that encouraging prostitution in recreational business operations will bring economic benefits by developing the tourism and hospitality industries and generating a significant source of tax revenue. [Anderson A. and Gil V., "Prostitution and public policy in the People's Republic of China: an analysis of the rehabilitative ideal" (1994) 4 "International Criminal Justice Review" 23 at 28.] On occasion, police have been implicated in the running of high grade hotels where prostitution activities occur, or accepting bribes and demanding sexual favours to ignore the existence of prostitution activities. [Malhotra, A. "Prostitution, triads and corruption - Shanghai's dark side", (February 1994) "Asia, Inc." 32 at 32–9.] Government corruption is also involved in a more indirect form — the widespread abuse of public funds to finance consumption of sex services. Pan Suiming contends that China has a specific type of prostitution that entails a bargain between those who use their power and authority in government to obtain sex and those who use sex to obtain privileges. [Pan Suiming, note 6 at 21.]

Apart from incidences of violence directly associated with prostitution, an increasing number of women who sell sex have been physically assaulted, and even murdered, in the course of attempts to steal their money and property. [Xin Ren, note 8 at 1423.] There have also been a growing number of criminal acts, especially incidences of theft and fraud directed at men who buy sex, as well as bribery of public servants. [Pan Suiming "San tan 'dixia xing chanye'" [三谈地下性产业: "The 'underground sex industry', no. 3"] , note 6 at 55.] Offenders often capitalise on the unwillingness of participants in the prostitution transaction to report such activities. Organised crime rings are increasingly trafficking women into and out of China for the sex trade, sometimes forcibly and after multiple acts of rape. [Zhang Ping, note 9 at 25-9. See also Hughes, D. (et al) [ China and Hong Kong: Facts on Trafficking and Prostitution] "Coalition Against Trafficking in Women". Accessed 2 December 2005; [ CWA Newsletter, Vol. 13 , no. 2–3 (Apr.-Sep. 1997)] "Child Workers in Asia", April-Sept. 1997. Accessed 2 December 2005.] Mainland China also has a growing number of "heroin hookers", whose drug addictions are often connected to international and domestic crime rackets. [Wang Xingjuan (1996) "Dangqian maiyin piaochang de xianxiang wenti" [当前卖淫嫖娼的现象问题: "Some problems concerning the current phenomenon of selling and buying sex"] , note 6 at 27–8.]

Sexually transmitted diseases also made a resurgence around the same time as prostitution, and have been directly linked to prostitution. There are fears that prostitution may become the main route of HIV transmission as it has in developing countries such as Thailand and India. ["Consensus and recommendations on HIV and prostitution", note 6 at 104–6.] Some regions have introduced a policy of 100% condom use, inspired by Thailand's success in reducing its number of new HIV infections. (See Prostitution in Thailand.) Other interventions have been introduced recently at some sites, including STI services, peer education and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV. ["A Joint Assessment of HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Care in China (2004)", State Council HIV/AIDS Working Committee Office and UN Theme Group on HIV/AIDS in China; Zhang Feng, [ HIV/AIDS battle enters new phase] , "China Daily", 27 October 2005. Accessed 3 December 2005.]

Types and venues

Chinese police categorise prostitution practices according to a descending hierarchy of seven tiers, though this typology does not exhaust the forms of practices that exist. [Asia Monitor Resource Centre, [ Sex Work in China] . (Accessed 20 November 2005).] These tiers highlight the heterogeneous nature of prostitution and prostitutes. While they are all classified as prostitutes, the services they offer can be very different. Within some tiers, for example, there is still some revulsion to the acts of anal sex and oral sex. In parallel with the wide range of backgrounds for prostitutes, male buyers of sex also come from a wide range of occupational backgrounds.

;First tier - "baoernai" (包二奶):Women who act as the "second wives" of men with money and influential positions, including government officials and entrepreneurs from the mainland, as well as overseas businessmen. This practice is defined as prostitution on the grounds that women in question actively solicit men who can provide them with fixed-term accommodation and a regular allowance. Women who engage in these acts will sometimes co-habit with their "clients" and may even have ambitions to become a real wife. ;Second tier - "baopo" (包婆 "packaged wife"): Women who accompany high class clients for a fixed duration of time, for example, during the course of a business trip, and receive a set payment for doing so. The first and second tiers have become the focus of heated public debate because they are explicitly linked to government corruption. Many domestic commentators contend that these practices constitute a concrete expression of "bourgeois rights". [Pan Suiming, note 18 at 52–7.] The All-China Women's Federation, as one of the major vehicles of feminism in the PRC, as well as women's groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan, have been actively involved in efforts to eradicate this form of "concubinage" as practices that violate the emotional and economic surety of the marriage contract. [Act of the People's Republic of China for Security Administration Punishment.]

;Third tier - "santing" (三厅 "three halls"):Women who perform sexual acts with men in karaoke/dance venues, bars, restaurants, teahouses and other venues and who receive financial recompense in the form of tips from the individual men they accompany, as well as from a share of the profits generated by informal service charges on the use of facilities and the consumption of food and beverages. A common euphemism for such hostesses is "sanpei xiaojie" (三陪小姐: "ladies of the three accompaniments"). In theory, the "three accompaniments" are chatting, drinking and dancing with their clients. In practice, the "three accompaniments" more often refers to dancing with, drinking with, and being publicly groped by their clients. These women often begin by allowing their clients to fondle or intimately caress their bodies, then if the client is eager, will engage in sexual intercourse. ;Fourth tier - "doorbell girls" (叮咚小姐 "dingdong ladies"): Women who solicit potential buyers of sex by phoning rooms in a given hotel. The common practice is to offer either one-time sexual intercourse or all-night sex, the latter usually being at double or triple the regular price. ;Fifth tier - "falangmei" (发廊妹 "hairdressing salon sisters"):Women who work in places that offer commercial sexual services under the guise of massage or health and beauty treatments; for instance, in health and fitness centres, beauty parlours, barber shops, bathhouses and saunas. Common activities in these premises are masturbation or oral sex.;Sixth tier - "jienü" (街女 "street girls"):Women who solicit male buyers of sex on the streets. ;Seventh tier - "xiagongpeng" (下工棚 "down the work shack"):Women who sell sex to the transient labour force of male workers from the rural countryside.

The lowest two tiers are characterised by a more straightforward exchange of sex for financial or material recompense. They are neither explicitly linked to government corruption, nor directly mediated through China's new commercial recreational business sector. Women who sell sex in the lowest two tiers usually do so in return for small sums of money, food and shelter.

Legal responses

The PRC rejects the argument that prostitution is an unremarkable transaction between consenting individuals and that prohibition laws constitute a violation of civil liberties. Overall, the PRC's legal response to prostitution is to penalise third party organisers of prostitution. Participants in the prostitution transaction are still usually penalised according to the Chinese system of administrative sanctions, rather than through the criminal code.

Prostitution law

*1987 Security administration punishment regulations (中华人民共和国治安管理处罚条例).
*1991 Decision on Strictly Forbidding the Selling and Buying of Sex (严禁卖淫嫖娼的决定).
*1991 Decision on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Abduct and Traffic in or Kidnap Women and Children (严惩拐卖、绑架妇女、儿童的犯罪分子的决定).
*1992 Law on Protecting the Rights and Interests of Women (妇女权益保障法).
*1997 revision of Criminal Law of the PRC (中华人民共和国刑法).
*1999 "Regulations concerning the management of public places of entertainment" (娱乐场所管理条例).

Until the 1980s, the subject of prostitution was not viewed as a major concern for the National People's Congress. The PRC's first criminal code, the Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law of 1979 made no explicit reference to the activities of prostitutes and prostitute clients. ["Criminal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law of the People's Republic of China" (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1984), Articles 140, 169.] Legal control of prostitution was effected on the basis of provincial rulings and localised policing initiatives until the introduction of the "Security administration punishment regulations" in 1987. The Regulations makes it an offence to "sell sex" (卖淫) and to "have illicit relations with a prostitute" (嫖宿暗娼). [Note 15, Article 30, at 695–6.]

Prostitution only became a distinct object of statutory classification in the early 1990s. Responding to requests from the Ministry of Public Security and the All-China Women's Federation, the National People's Congress passed legislation that significantly expanded the range and scope of prostitution controls: the 1991 Decision on Strictly Forbidding the Selling and Buying of Sex and the 1991 Decision on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Abduct and Traffic in or Kidnap Women and Children. [Quanguo renda changweihui, xingfashi bianzhu, fazhi gongzuo weiyuanhui (Criminal Law Office and the Legal Council of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress) "Guanyu yanjin maiyin piaochang de jueding he guanyu yancheng guaimai bangjia funü, ertong de fanzui fenzi de jueding shiyi" [关于严禁卖淫嫖娼的决定和关于严惩拐卖绑架妇女儿童的犯罪分子的决定: An Explanation of the Decision on Strictly Forbidding the Selling and Buying of Sex and the Decision on the Severe Punishment of Criminals Who Abduct and Traffic in or Kidnap Women and Children] (Zhonggguo jiancha chubanshe, 1991).] Adding symbolic weight to these enhanced law enforcement controls was the 1992 Law on Protecting the Rights and Interests of Women, which defines prostitution as a social practice that abrogates the inherent rights of women to personhood. [Articles 36, 37.]

The PRC's revised Criminal Law of 1997 retains its abolitionist focus in that it is primarily concerned with criminalising third-party involvement in prostitution. For the first time the death penalty may be used, but only in exceptional cases of organising prostitution activities, involving additional circumstances — such as repeated offences, rape, causing serious bodily injury etc. ["1997 Criminal Code of the People's Republic of China" trans. Wei Luo, (Buffalo, New York: W.S. Hein & Co., 1998), Articles 358, 359, at 186–8. See the case [ Chinese tycoon convicted of running prostitution, gambling ring sentenced to death] , 24 January 2005. Accessed 2 December 2005.] The activities of first-party participants continue to be regulated in practice according to administrative law, with the exceptions of anyone who sells or buys prostitutional sex in the full knowledge that they are infected with an STD; and anyone who has prostitutional sex with a child under 14 years of age. [Note 19, Article 360, at 187.] Since 2003, male homosexual prostitution has also been prosecuted under the law. [ [ China court hears homosexual prostitution case] , "China Daily", 8 February 2004. Accessed 2 December 2005.]

The 1997 criminal code codified provisions in the 1991 Decision, establishing a system of controls over social place, specifically places of leisure and entertainment. [Note 19, Articles 361, 362, at 187–8.] The ultimate goal is to stop managers and workers within the predominantly male-run and male-patronised hospitality and service industry from profiting from and/or encouraging the prostitution of others. Government intervention in commercial recreation has found concrete expression in the form of the 1999 "Regulations concerning the management of public places of entertainment". The provisions proscribe a range of commercial practices that characterise the activities of female "hostesses". [Zhonghua renmin gongheguo guowuyuan (State Council of the PRC) "Yule changsuo guanli tiaoli" [娱乐场所管理条例: "Regulations concerning the management of public places of entertainment"] , Wenhua chubanshe, 1999. Articles 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138.] These laws have been further reinforced via the introduction of localised licensing measures that bear directly on the interior spatial organisation of recreational venues.

Party disciplinary measures

As a result of strong calls to curb official corruption, during the mid to late 1990s, a whole host of regulations were also introduced to ban government employees both from running recreational venues and from protecting illegal business operations. The 1997 Communist Party Discipline Regulations, for example, contain specific provisions to the effect that party members will be stripped of their posts for using their position and/or public funds to keep a "second wife", a "hired wife", and to buy sexual services. ["Communist Party discipline regulations" (1997) Xinhua News Agency, Beijing, 10 April, trans. "Selected World Broadcasts - China", 14 April, FE/2892 S2/1-18.] These measures are being policed via the practice established in 1998 of auditing government officials, and thereby combining the forces of the CPC's disciplinary committees with those of the State Auditing Administration. Following the introduction of these measures, the Chinese media has publicised numerous cases of government officials being convicted and disciplined for abusing their positions for prostitution. [See for example "Guangdong court judge sacked for hiring prostitutes" (2000) "Xinhua News Agency Bulletin", 26 September, Xinhua News Agency.]


Despite the position of the law, prostitutes are often treated as quasi-criminals by the Ministry of Public Security. Chinese police conduct regular patrols of public spaces, often with the support of mass-line organisations, using a strong presence as a deterrence against prostitution. Because lower tier prostitutes work the streets, they are more likely to be apprehended. Arrests are also more likely to be female sellers of sex than male buyers of sex. The overwhelming majority of men and women who are apprehended are released with a caution and fine. [Jeffreys, note 6 at 107.]

In response, sellers and buyers of sex have adopted a wide range of tactics designed to avoid apprehension. The spatial mobility which is afforded by modern communications systems, such as mobile phones and pagers, and by modern forms of transportation, such as taxis and private cars, has severely reduced the ability of police to determine exactly who is engaged in acts of solicitation. [Ouyang Tao (1994) "Dangjin woguo maiyin piaochang fanzui de zhuangshi tedian ji duice" [当今我国卖淫嫖娼犯罪的壮实特点及对策: Prostitution offences in contemporary China: characteristics and countermeasures] , "Fanzui yu gaizao yanjiu", 10: 15–18.] Prostitutes have also begun using the internet, in particular instant messaging software such as QQ, to attract customers. [ [ 23岁"妈咪"网上介绍小姐 称学生包夜600] (23-year-old "Mummy" introduces ladies on the internet, students for 600 a night). Accessed 25 November 2005.] In 2004, PlayChina, an online prostitution referral service, was shut down by police.

In tandem with the long-term task of developing preventative policing, the much more visible form of policing have been periodic police-led campaigns. Anti-prostitution campaigns have been accompanied by nationwide "media blitzes" to publicise the PRC's laws and regulations. This is typically followed by the announcement of arrest statistics, and then by sober official statements suggesting that the struggle to eliminate prostitution will be a long one. The use of campaigns has been criticised for their reliance on an outdated "ideological" construction and an equally outmoded campaign formula of the 1950s. [Hershatter, G., "Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai" (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press) at 363.]

The primary target of the PRC's prostitution controls throughout the 1990s has been China's burgeoning hospitality and entertainment industry. These culminated in the "strike hard" campaigns of late 1999 and 2000. Whilst such campaigns may have failed to eradicate prostitution "in toto", there is some evidence that regulation of China's recreational venues has helped to create a legitimate female service worker with the right to refuse to engage in practices repugnant to the "valid labour contract", as well as the right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace. [Jeffreys, E., "Feminist prostitution debates: Are there any sex workers in China?" in McLaren, A. E., Chinese Women - Living and Working (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004) at 98.]

Chinese police have, however, proven unable to effectively police higher tier prostitution practices. The nature of concubinage and second wife practices makes it more suited as a target of social action campaigns rather than conventional police action. Because of social changes, for example, Chinese police are now professionally constrained not to intrude on people's personal relationships in an overt or coercive manner. [Jeffreys, note 41 at 94.] Police forces around China also differ as to how they approach the subject. In some areas, "massage parlours" on main streets are known full well to be brothels, but are generally left to function without hindrance, barring occasional raids.

The question of legalisation

The illegal activities and problems associated with prostitution point to the benefits of legally recognising it. A number of international NGOs and human rights organisations have criticised the PRC government for failing to comply with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Specifically, they charge that the PRC has failed to recognise voluntary prostitution as a legitimate form of work, penalising lower tier prostitutes who sell sex while exonerating men who buy sex, and ignoring the ongoing problems of governmental complicity. [Human Rights in China [ Can dialogue improve China's human rights situation? Report on the implementation of CEDAW in the People's Republic of China] , 2000. Accessed 2 December 2005.]

Central guidelines laid down by the CPC do not permit the public advocacy of the legalisation of prostitution. Arguments concerning legalisation are not absent, however, from mainland China. On the contrary, some commentators contend that legally recognising the sex industry, in conjunction with further economic development, will ultimately reduce the number of women in prostitution. [Zhang Beichuan, Chen Guanzhi, Li Kefu and Li Xiufang "Zhonggguo mou chengshi jinü diaocha" [中国某城市妓女调查: "A survey of female prostitutes in a Chinese city"] , note 6.] Domestic commentators have also been highly critical of the PRC's prostitution controls, with a consistent Marxist-informed focus of complaint being the gender-biased and discriminatory nature of such controls, as well as human rights abuses. [See for example Pan, note 6.] Some commentators in China and overseas contend that the PRC's policy of banning prostitution is problematic because it hinders the task of developing measures to prevent the spread of HIV. [Li Dun (1996) "Dui aizibing yu maiyin de zhengce he falü pingjia" [对艾滋病与卖淫的政策和法律评价: "An evaluation of China's policies and laws concerning AIDS and prostitution"] note 6 at 16–17.]

While prostitution controls have been relaxed at a local level, there is no impetus for legalisation at the central government level. Importantly, legalisation does not have much public support. [Zhang Zhiping "Does China need a red-light district?", "Beijing Review", 12 June, 2000 at 28–33; Settle, E., [ Legalise prostitution in China] , "South China Morning Post", 29 July 2004. Accessed 2 December 2005.] Given the underdeveloped nature of the Chinese economy and legal system, there is an argument that legalisation would further complicate the already difficult task of establishing the legal responsibility for third-party involvement in forced prostitution and the traffic in women. [Peratis, K. and Flores, J.R. [ Symposium (voluntary prostitution)] , "Insight on the News", 17 July 2000. Accessed 2 December 2005.] Surveys conducted in China suggest that clandestine forms of prostitution will continue to proliferate alongside the establishment of legal prostitution businesses, because of social sanctions against working or patronising a red-light district. [Pan Suiming, cited in Zhang Zhiping, note 50 at 32–3.] Problems associated with female employment also limit the effectiveness of legalisation. These include the lack of independent trade unions, and limited access of individuals to civil redress with regard to occupational health and safety issues. [Jeffreys, note 7 at 128.]

Prostitution in the media

The spread of prostitution practices has introduced a large quantity of slang to the popular vocabulary. Prostitution is a popular subject in the media, especially on the internet. Typically news of police raids, court cases or family tragedies related to prostitution are published in a sensationalised form. A good example is news of an orgy between 400 Japanese clients and 500 Chinese prostitutes in 2003, which partially because of anti-Japanese sentiment, was widely publicised and met with considerable outrage. [ [ Japanese orgy in Zhuhai hotel sparks Chinese fury] , "People's Daily", 27 September 2003. Accessed 2 December 2005.] Another highly publicised case was that of Alex Ho Wai-to, then a Democratic Party candidate for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, who was given a six-month reeducation through labor sentence for hiring a prostitute. [Zheng Caixiong, [ HK LegCo candidate arrested for taking prostitutes] , "China Daily", 18 August 2004. Accessed 2 December 2005.]

Prostitution has emerged as a subject of art in recent years, particularly in Chinese cinema. Li Shaohong's 1995 film "Blush" begins in 1949 with the rounding up of prostitutes in Shanghai for "reeducation", and proceeds to tell the story of a love triangle between two prostitutes and one of their former clients. One of the prostitutes, Xiaoe, attempts to hang herself in reeducation. When asked to explain the reason, she says she was born in the brothel and enjoyed her lifestyle there - thereby challenging the government-sanctioned perspective of prostitution. The 1998 film "" was a dramatic portrayal of "invisible" prostitution in the rural China during the Maoist era. The 2001 independent film "Seafood", by Zhu Wen, was an even more frank depiction of prostitution, this time of the complicated relationship between prostitution and law enforcement. In the film, a Beijing prostitute goes to a seaside resort to commit suicide. Her attempt is intervened by a police officer who tries to redeem her, but also inflicts upon her many instances of sexual assault. Both films, whilst being critically acclaimed abroad, performed poorly in mainland China, only partially due to government restrictions on distribution. The depiction of prostitution in fiction, by comparison, has fared slightly better. The most notable author on the subject is the young writer Jiu Dan, whose portrayal of Chinese prostitutes in Singapore in her novel "Wuya", was extremely controversial. [Jiu Dan, "Wuya" [乌鸦: Crows] (Changjiang wenyi chubanshe, 2001).]

Notes and references

Further reading

*"Aizibing: shehui, lunli he falü wenti zhuanjia yantaohui" (艾滋病:社会、伦理和法律问题专家研讨会: "Report of the Expert Workshop on HIV and Prostitution: Social, Ethical and Legal Issues"), Beijing: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 29–31 October.
*Gil, V.E. and Anderson, A.F. (1998) "State-sanctioned aggression and the control of prostitution in the People's Republic of China: a review", "Aggression and Violent Behaviour", 3: 129-42.
*Hershatter, G., "Dangerous Pleasures: Prostitution and Modernity in Twentieth-Century Shanghai" (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press).
*Jeffreys, E., "China, Sex and Prostitution", (London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004).
*Ruan, F. (1991) "Sex in China: Studies in Sexology in Chinese Culture", New York: Plenum Press.
*Shan Guangnai, "Zhongguo changji - guoqu he xianzai" (中国娼妓过去和现在: "Chinese Prostitution - Past and Present") (Beijing: Falü chubanshe, 1995).

External links

*All-China Women's Federation, [ Excerpts from the Criminal Law of the PRC] . See in particular articles 358–362.
*Jeffreys, E., [ A Matter of Choice: Feminist Prostitution Debates and the Example of China] .
*Xin Ren, [ Prostitution and Employment Opportunities for Women under China's Economic Reform] .
* Pan Suiming, [ 中国红灯区纪实] ("A true record of China's red-light districts") A sociological study of three prostitution centres. zh icon
*Gifford, R., [ On the Road in China: Prostitution, Religion Rise] , "NPR".

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