Inside the World of a “10-yuan” Sex Worker

The South China Morning Post’s Mimi Lau goes inside the world of a “10-yuan” sex worker, visiting a brothel in rural Guangxi. She paints a grim picture, meeting several women and telling their often tragic stories. Grimmer still are the details of the scale of the industry:

There are four to six million sex workers on the mainland, although some estimates put the figure as high as 10 to 20 million and say they account for 6 per cent of its gross domestic product.[…] A survey in 2009 found about 30 per cent of married male rural migrants had visited a prostitute.

[…] Shan, a troubled young woman who is approaching 30 years of age, is one of the very few younger workers at one 10-yuan shop in her native Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Not pretty enough to earn money in a higher class establishment, she has been working in sex shops for three years. While she occasionally gambles, most of the 50 to 100 yuan she earns from each client goes towards sending 5,000 yuan per month to help pay for her 15-year-old sister’s leukaemia treatment.

[…]Ye says there are three kinds of sex worker on the mainland. They are classified by “legality” – despite the fact that all kinds of prostitution is officially illegal. [Source]

Recently, Offbeat China also covered “10-yuan sex workers.” According to this post, there are 7 hierarchies of sex workers in China, from “second wives” (a.k.a. concubines) at the very top, right down to the bottom:

7. ‘underclass women’ generally service migrant workers, living in urban slum dwellings on construction sites. For some this is occasional or part time work, but others live with workers. They represent the lowest stratum of sex work, some doing it for basic food.

For many woman at the end of the sex-work chain, meager income is one thing to endure, constant anti-prostitution police raids is another. Those sex workers up on the hierarchy often have connections with either rich people or government officials that can prevent them from being harassed by the police. [Source]

A recent Human Rights Watch report detailed the punitive laws and policing practices used against sex workers in China, from the report’s press release:

These abuses include police violence, arbitrary detention of up to two years in “re-education through labor” and “custody and education” centers, and coercive HIV testing.

[…]The 51-page report, “‘Swept Away’: Abuses Against Sex Workers in China,” documents abuses by the police against female sex workers in Beijing, including torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions, and fines, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses, and state agents. The report also documents abuses by public health agencies, such as coercive HIV testing, privacy infringements, and mistreatment by health officials. [Source]

The report criticises the government for allowing the industry to prosper, while maintaining the official ban, and calls for an end to violence against sex workers. The report’s release was covered on CDT.

Read more about previous investigative pieces on 10-yuan sex workers via CDT.



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