We judge it’s time for China to face up to prostitution – what do you think? ( Includes opinion poll for you to comment. )

Posted: August 6, 2013 in Political musings, Popular Culture et al
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Chines prostitutes - young, pretty, slim, and available by the million. And all potential victims of an unregulated system.

Chines prostitutes – young, pretty, slim, and available by the million. And all potential victims of an unregulated and exploitative system.

As AFP report, authorities in Shanghai has suspended four judges over allegations that they patronised prostitutes, reports and officials said on Monday in the latest salacious Chinese scandal to result from online accusations.

An inquiry was opened after an anonymous blogger, identified by state media only as being surnamed “Ni”, posted footage online last week alleging that five officials hired prostitutes at a local resort in June.

The Shanghai Higher People’s Court said on Tencent Weibo, a Twitter-like social media service, that Chen Xueming, the chief judge of its No.1 Civil Tribunal, and three other officials had been suspended.

“The Shanghai Higher People’s Court is highly concerned about the incident and has launched an investigation into the case,” it said.

The court had previously said Zhao Minghua, deputy chief judge of the tribunal, was among those named on Ni’s blog.

In what might be the motivation for the story, Ni claimed Zhao intervened in a civil case in 2009 that caused him a huge financial loss, the state-run ‘Global Times’ newspaper reported on Monday. He spent a year following Zhao, it said, “and discovered that he frequently went to nightclubs, owned several properties and had extramarital affairs.”

Surveillance video posted by Ni purported to show five officials including Chen and Zhao entering a luxury room after a three-hour banquet at the resort, followed by several women who stood by the door.  Subtitles said that Chen allocated the prostitutes to each man. Video showed officials walking out two hours later, some of them arm-in-arm with women.

The identity of the fifth person in the footage remains unknown.

Shanghai’s city disciplinary commission, which is taking part in the investigation, said on its Tencent Weibo account that all four of the accused were judges.

“The involvement of four judges in the ‘nightclub entertainment incident’ deprived the law of its dignity, put judiciary to shame and caused damage to justice,” it said.

It was investigating “to preserve the image of the party and the government and safeguard the stable political, economic and social development of Shanghai,” it said, and would disclose the results of the case to the public.  The incident is the latest in a series of scandals over corruption and other disciplinary violations, including sexual impropriety, by Chinese officials to be revealed online by whistleblowers.

In our experience, this story highlights again the double standard in Chinese public life over sex and prostitution.

As anyone who has done business in China knows, an almost ritual part of “entertainment” for visiting dignitaries or businesspeople will, at some point, be the offer of sexual services to “round off” an evening’s socialising. Ask around: the stories are legend. See here for the Chinese police’s (and society’s) gradation of prostitution services into 7 main groups.

"Let's end the evening at karaoke" doesn't always mean what it sounds like ... Been there, done that, didn't buy the t-shirt: but many do.

“Let’s end the evening at karaoke” doesn’t always mean what it sounds like … Been there, done that, didn’t buy the t-shirt: but many do.

In many visiting Western businessperson’s experience, the process obeys certain laws of discretion. Troupes of young women “spontaneously’ appear when all the men concerned are suitably lubricated (I doubt troupes of young men appear to entertain women in certain circumstances, but I would not know) and the girls proceed to flatter and fawn on the men present. If the girls summoned to the party don’t happen to please those being entertained a wave of the hand ensures another batch miraculously appear.

Those who are unconcerned by matters such as morality, fidelity or STDs very soon discover, if they didn’t know already, that the girls concerned have few boundaries.

At a level below this, the story becomes even more concerning. As this story reveals, at the bottom of the ladder of Chinese prostitution, the situation for both girls and their clients is grim indeed.

There is genuine concern growing in China about the lives of poor women forced to work as prostitutes to survive. This China Daily photo blog/article makes harrowing viewing.

This phenomenon is by no means limited to China, of course.

It is common throughout Asia, and to some degree or other, worldwide. Not for nothing is prostitution called the oldest profession, and it is a profession that appears alive and licking. Er, kicking.

Similarly, in Asia in particular, it is not at all uncommon for men to live it up after work with young ladies whose ability to please does not end at pouring them a drink and smiling benignly. Certain Asian cultures have a very different attitude to prostitution to those in the West, accepting it for centuries as a social norm, and in China it is also not uncommon for a man to have one or more “kept women” as well as their “official” wife, concubines in all but name. Where their lifestyle is paid for by the man, often including clothes, food, and accommodation, it is hard to see this as anything other than a more sophisticated version of the same transaction that these judges have tripped up over.

China has always had a confused and multi-layered approach to prostitution, which was historically very common in both the Imperial and Republic eras, and which since the Moaist takeover in 1948 has been the target of first an eradication effort, and then the gradual loosening of controls. According to research quoted by Wikipedia, prostitution is now an increasingly large part of the Chinese economy, employing perhaps 10 million people, with an annual level of consumption of possibly 1 trillion RMB.

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.

What really worries Chinese authorities is that 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. On occasion, police themselves 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. Government corruption is also involved in a more indirect form — the widespread abuse of public funds to finance consumption of sex services. Pan Suiming, a professor at the Institute for Sexological Research (People’s University of China, Beijing) 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.

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. 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. 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. Mainland China also has a growing number of “heroin hookers”, whose drug addictions are often connected to international and domestic crime rackets.

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. Some regions have introduced a policy of 100% condom use, inspired by a similar measure in Thailand. (This article also interestingly discusses the cultural norms applying to prostitution in Thailand.) Other interventions have been introduced recently at some sites, including STI services, peer education and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV.

Wellthisiswhatithink has heard, as well as the matter being confirmed by some research studies, that casual prostitution is also common in the higher education sector. Put simply, female students, who are fewer in number than men due to the effects of the one child policy and resulting widespread alleged infanticide of female fetuses or children, and therefore in demand, frequently supplement their living allowances through prostitution with fellow students. A translator helping us on one business trip to China remarked that although she had not employed these tactics herself, the event was very common indeed. To us, the matter of fact way this information was divulged seemed to go directly to prevailing social norms as much as an insight into anything else.

It is also very obvious (especially in the eastern part of the country, simply by walking down the street in some cities) that a significant number of Russian prostitutes have entered China and work there seemingly unhindered.

Other countries also fuel the trade: North Korean women are increasingly falling victim to sex exploitation in China attempting to escape poverty and harsh conditions in their homeland. About 10,000 women (The Washington Post’s Carol Douglas, however, claimed that the number was as high as 100,000) are reported to have escaped from North Korea to China; according to human rights groups, many of them are forced into sexual slavery. Most of the clients of North Korean women are Chinese citizens of Korean descent, largely elderly bachelors.

According to a Ji Sun Jeong of A Woman’s Voice International, “60 to 70% of North Korean defectors to China are women, and 70 to 80% of whom are victims of human trafficking.” Violent abuse starts in apartments near the border, from where the women are then moved to cities further away to work as sex slaves. When Chinese authorities arrest these North Korean sex slaves, they repatriate them. North Korean authorities keep such repatriates in penal labour colonies (and/or execute them), execute any Chinese-fathered babies of theirs “to protect North Korean pure blood” and force abortions on all pregnant repatriates not executed.

This is much more than an academic argument about public morals.

All of which encourages us to argue that the time is long overdue for China to face up to this situation and start to decriminalise and normalise prostitution. Where countries have done this (such as in Australia) some important strides have be achieved. Women endure a much lower rate of violence, for one, and better sexual health – a boon for their clients. Similarly, women retain a higher proportion of their earnings than when working in the unregulated arena.

There will always be informal or unregulated prostitution in every society. But bringing it under some sort of sensible and safe legal control is now clearly established as a good thing – for the workers, and those who purchase their services.

And for the first time, one of the biggest businesses in the world can even be taxed.

Despite ushering in an anti-prostution era, Mao was utterly inconsistent himself. "As Mao got older," Li wrote, "he became an adherent of Taoist sexual practices which gave him an excuse to pursue sex not only for pleasure but to extend his life. He claimed he needed the waters of yin—or vaginal secretions—to supplement his own declining yang—or male essence, the source of his strength, power and longevity. Many of the women that Mao slept with were daughters of poor peasants who Li said believed that sleeping with the chairman was the greatest experience of their life. Mao was happiest and most satisfied when he had several young women simultaneously sharing his bed, and he encouraged his sexual partners to introduce him to others. He often told the young women to read the Taoist sex manual The Plain Girl's Secret Way, in preparation for their trysts." [Source: "The Private Life of Chairman Mao" by Dr. Li Zhisui, excerpts reprinted U.S. News and World Report, October 10, 1994]

Despite ushering in an anti-prostitution era, Mao was utterly inconsistent himself. “As Mao got older,” Mao’s personal physician Dr Li wrote, “he became an adherent of Taoist sexual practices which gave him an excuse to pursue sex not only for pleasure but to extend his life. He claimed he needed the waters of yin—or vaginal secretions—to supplement his own declining yang—or male essence, the source of his strength, power and longevity. Many of the women that Mao slept with were daughters of poor peasants who Li said believed that sleeping with the chairman was the greatest experience of their life. Mao was happiest and most satisfied when he had several young women simultaneously sharing his bed, and he encouraged his sexual partners to introduce him to others. He often told the young women to read the Taoist sex manual The Plain Girl’s Secret Way, in preparation for their trysts.” [Source: “The Private Life of Chairman Mao” by Dr. Li Zhisui, excerpts reprinted U.S. News and World Report, October 10, 1994]

Tackling the matter will mean China has to confront it’s inherently (and traditionally) male-oriented society, to accept that Chinese society is not always internally harmonious and well organised (which it sometimes seems reluctant to do), and to deal fundamentally with a widespread issue rather than scratching at the surface of it.

Chucking the book at a few naughty judges, or even less impressively, busting the young women involved, is mere window dressing.

In our opinion, regulating prostitution in China would be a bold step towards the true emancipation of women in this fast-growing and significant society.

In a broad sense, if women choose to work as prostitutes that should be a choice, rather than a necessity, and it should be a safe choice, and one without social stigma.

And there is evidence that the Chinese authorities are well aware of the threat to women of un-regulated prostitution.

In 2011 a Chinese “madam” was executed by lethal injection for running a prostitution ring.

It’s estimated that she was responsible for over 300 women were forced into prostitution between the years of 1994 and 2009.

Seven of the women died from unknown causes that some suspect had to do with the prostitution.

Other women went clinically insane.

One example includes a forced prostitute who, in 2003, jumped from the eighth floor of a brothel (disguised as a tea house) and was paralyzed as a result.

Even after her paralysis, the woman was kept locked up until police found her.

But even executing ring leaders will not solve the problem. Prostitution is like the hydra. Cut off one head, and seven more appear.

Change must happen. Nothing in current policy settings implies that the Chinese government knows what to do about the level of prostitution in the country, and the social ills it trails in its wake.

No, necessary change will not happen overnight. Yes, it has to happen.

The sooner China gets started, the sooner the problem will be controlled, to the benefit of all.

But what do you think? Your comments are very welcome, and please take our poll.

 

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