Sex worker Ye Haiyan held in China's 1st rally to legalize prostitution

Updated: 05 Aug 2010
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Suspected prostitutes hide their faces after a police sweep in central China. Reuters
A little more than a week after police in China banned “prostitute parades” as a type of punishment for illegal sex workers, a woman in the central Chinese city of Wuhan was detained for what is reported to be China’s first rally for legalizing prostitution.
Ye Haiyan, a sex worker and single mother in Hubei province, was detained by plain-clothes police for organizing the effort, the Associated Press reported. The group carried banners, collected signatures and called for an end to the prosecution of sex workers. Prostitution is illegal, but is rampant in modern China. It is said to be a central reason the incidence of AIDS has risen in China in recent years.
“I cannot talk or use the Internet right now, I am with them,” Ye told Reuters via text message. She said she was receiving “re-education.”
Despite its prevalence, prostitution remains a taboo topic. In one highly publicized case from June, the Chongqing Hilton was temporarily shut down by police for hosting prostitutes.
Police have been known in recent years to humiliate prostitutes as a means of deterring others from entering the trade. But the Ministry of Public Security issued a circular last month banning the practice of forcing prostitutes to parade through the street, Agence France-Presse reported. A recent case from Guangdong, in which two accused prostitutes were pictured barefoot and tethered by a rope at the waist, prompted widespread public outrage against such practices.
Still, a potential legalization of prostitution in China appears far off. The China Development Brief, a Chinese non-profit publication, said Ye’s sex-worker rally was the first of its kind, according to Reuters. Ye had argued that legalizing the sex trade would provide greater protections for workers. Many women defectors from North Korea are said to be working in China’s sex trade, which the World Health Organization estimated in a recent report employs between 4 million and 6 million people in the country.
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