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Is it time to legalize prostitution in China?

Posted: 02/11/2014 3:08 pm

CCTV’s exposé into Dongguan’s seedy sex industry and resulting police crackdown has prompted some to question whether it’s time prostitution is brought out from the dark and into the light as a legalized and regulated profession.

It’s hard for some to fathom, but prostitution is illegal in China despite it being available in brothels, bath houses, “scissorless haircut” barbershops, massage parlours, on cards flung into taxis by touts, and even on the street. It’s so ubiquitous already that the police (for the most part) have turned a blind eye to it.

Many believe the crackdown in Dongguan is a sign the Communist Party, under Xi Jinping, wants to clean up the sleaze. But others are arguing for the opposite. From today’s South China Morning Post:

Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the CCTV report and the ensuing crackdown had unintended consequences.

“It’s a much more wide-spaced debate about the sex trade than we have seen in the past,” he told the South China Morning Post. “For the first time, there is a debate that includes the possibility of legalising sex work.”

“What triggered the discussion this time was how callous the CCTV report was.” Bequelin said. “Its absolute lack of sympathy or understanding has apparently triggered a lot of outrage and indignation.”

In its Tuesday editorial, the Beijing Times blasted the nation’s media for putting sex workers at the centre of their discussions of the sex trade. “If the focus is not put on higher levels [of the industry], and if those who organise and protect the trade are not exposed, […] then there will be others joining the trade tomorrow,” it read.

Those already in the industry face a fine of up to RMB5,000 and 15 days in jail if they’re caught. 

One solution might be found next door in Hong Kong, where prostitution is legal provided it is between two consenting adults in a private room. Would something like this work in China? Is it time to legalize prostitution here?


    Prostitution is already legal in China…its called marriage

    • Zen my Ass


  • Jeremy L

    Legal prostitution seems to work beautifully in the USA, in Nevada that is ->

  • AsianLibertarian

    Legalize gay marriage, prostitution, marijuana and guns in China…

  • Šibanje Napušavanje

    Legalise as in “tax” and “regulate” — absolutely not.

    Decriminalise as in “keep your ugly state bureaucracy nose out of people’s personal business” — yes, by all means.

    Pimps and madames the state should still prosecute. But leave the prostitutes (of either sex) alone to do their thing independently (not on the street, though).

    This model is for all countries.

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