Photo from Global Voices Online
In what’s thought to be the first of its kind in the country, a small group of women have asked onlookers in Wuhan to end discrimination against sex workers by scrapping anti-prostitution laws and stopping the current sex industry crackdown.
According to The Guardian, Ye Haiyan, the women at the forefront of the protest, had decided to speak out after seeing women publicly humiliated following police raids – a police act that was only recently made illegal by the Ministry of Security.
Ye Haiyan, who blogs and tweets under the name Hooligan Sparrow, is an activist who once raised controversy for posting nude pictures of herself online. More recently, she launched the Chinese Women’s Rights Workshop, which distributes condoms and AIDS-prevention pamphlets to brothels in Wuhan, though she said sex workers were reluctant to use them in fear that they could be brought in as evidence of prostitution.
She went into more detail about the reasons for her protest on Global Voices Online:
Previously, I had no intention of making demands for legalization, I had only hoped that under the current state of things, the rights and interests of our sisters would receive greater protection.
But the crackdowns this year have been insane and leave me feeling hopeless.
Every day when you look at the news, you see sex being criminalized everywhere across the country; when they see the cameras, sisters will hang their heads our cover their faces as they get paraded around, exposed and publicly humiliated. So, I decided I could no longer hesitate or be wimpy about this, that there needs to be a forceful voice in opposition to people being treated like this.
Yes, I’m pro-legalization, and this fight is against the persecution of sex!
As she explains, the likelihood of all women going to become prostitutes because it was legalized was incredibly slim – market forces dictate that the wages they’d earn would drop as more people entered the profession, making an already unhappy profession a terrible alternative to regular work. At the same time, legalization would allow people to track what kind of money goes into the prostitution business (helping to prevent corruption) as well as giving protection to an incredibly underprotected class.
While the likelihood of Wuhan, or the rest of China, changing anytime soon is slim, it’s not as if they wouldn’t have the footsteps of other culturally similar nations to follow. Singapore legalized the trade decades ago and, just last year, Taiwan did as well.