Liu Shaowu (刘绍武), director of the security management bureau under the Ministry of Public Security, recently emphasised to public security bureaus nationwide the importance of respect as a key touchstone in the crackdown against vice and prostitution. Sex workers, he said, may not be subject to verbal and physical abuse, discrimination and shaming by public parades. He also suggested that the public security bureau would henceforth no longer call prostitutes「卖淫女」(lit. “women who sell vice”), and encourage the use of the term「失足妇女」(lit. “women who have lost their way”). The statement sparked off a flurry of debate in the public, but the ministry’s move has received a thumbs up from notable feminist and sexologist Li Yinhe (李银河). Here is our translation of her latest blogpost:
The recent move by the Public Security Bureau to call sex workers 「失足妇女」(“women who have lost their way”) instead of 「卖淫女」(“women who sell vice”) and its detailed instructions to prevent abuse of these women by policemen across the nation is one big step ahead. I say this is significant because this is a repositioning of female sex workers — no longer are they being seen as outright criminals, but as women who have unfortunately fallen through the cracks to the bottom rung of society. As to the former, the government has taken an active approach to fight vice, but as to the latter, the government will now take steps to remedy the situation.
Since 1986, the key approach in dealing with prostitution has been the levy of fines and re-education through labour. We have been using this approach for 24 years now and over the last 24 years, not only have we failed to reduce prostitution, we have also put in place a conflict of interest that has paved the way for more corruption among police and public officials (through the bribing of police and public officials, those engaged in prostitution remain in existence). Only when we abolish the fine of RMB5,000 per person can we cut off this conflict of interest from the roots. The same problem exists with re-education through labour, and police officials have been able to enrich themselves through corrupt means.
I believe that the right way to deal with the problem of prostitution is not through fines or re-education through labour but through exactly the same means adopted by the Chinese Communist Party when it entered the cities in 1949 — to free female sex workers from the shackles imposed on them by the brothel owners, to help them find their way to their hometowns, to get married, and to find employment in other industries. We need to empathise with these women, respect them for who they are and treat them with love — not fine them or incarcerate them.
I have a bold suggestion — and that is to shift the responsibility for dealing with “women who have lost their way” from the PSB to the Women’s Federation. In this way, we will be able to destroy the afore-mentioned conflict of interest and to help these women find alternative employment and a more respectable place in society. Only when we do this can we hope to reduce the number of women selling their bodies in China — and even some day make them a thing of the past.
Original post in Chinese after the jump:
Read more about Li Yinhe here.