Sex Workers in China Face Abuse
Human Rights Watch says they interviewed women who told of violence by police and of being detained following sex with undercover police officers. One anonymous woman cited in the report said she and two colleagues were assaulted by police who “attached us to trees, threw freezing cold water on us, and then proceeded to beat us.”
Other problems are arbitrary detention of sex workers and discrimination by law enforcement officials when sex workers try to report crimes or abuse, the report said. It focused on women primarily in Beijing who engage in sex work on the streets, in public places such as parks, and in massage parlors and hair salons. While Chinese law treats most sex work-related offences as administrative violations, punishable by fines and short periods of police custody or detention, it allows for administrative detention of up to two years for repeat offenders.
In most of East Asia, prostitution is embedded in a business and political culture of entertaining clients and partners in karaoke bars and nightclubs. Prostitution also is illegal in Japan, but legal gray areas still allow it to flourish. South Korea toughened its anti-prostitution laws in 2004, driving thousands of prostitutes and pimps out of business, although the industry there remains widespread. Still, the level of police abuse against sex workers is deemed lower in those two countries in part because of a stronger rule of law.
“There is a much more robust legal system in both Japan and South Korea so this offers in the first place a greater protection for women who engage in sex work,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Of course you don’t have the kind of limitations on right to expression and right to assembly and so on that you face in China, which is also contributing to this climate enabling these abuses.” [Source]
In China, the frequent crackdowns on prostitution make the problem worse without making a significant dent in the industry, according to the report. From the Guardian:
Authorities have launched frequent drives against the sex industry, but it remains widespread and visible. While such campaigns see hundreds of women rounded up, brothels often continue to operate with little obvious difficulty.
While there have been hints of change in the government’s approach – three years ago the ministry of public security ordered an end to the public shaming of sex workers and said they should be treated more respectfully – problems remain widespread.
“The anti-prostitution drives are useless in terms of controlling the industry, but they lead to a spike in abuses,” said Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch and one of the report’s authors.
Several interviewees said they had been assaulted by police or by auxiliary workers. Others reported police entrapping them or extorting sex. [Source]
Read the full report here via HRW.