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China and the phenomenon of prostitution 2.0


Jenny Yan is in a hurry. The 21-year-old nursing student has received a message on his cellphone and must return home, at the peak time of Beijing, get ready and wait for his client.

The young woman, from Sichuan province, in central China, studied in the morning and when evening came she became a prostitute; He is part of a new generation of sex workers who, attracted by new technology facilities and fast money, have decided to dedicate themselves, at least part time, to the world’s oldest trade.

“Why did I do it? With what I produce work a few hours a week I pay for what I want. I can live alone and have money to buy whatever I want. It’s very easy, ”Yan tried to convince.

The apparent convenience of the number of new prostitutes in this country contrasts with laws that punish, in increasingly harsh ways, crime related to this practice. In China, prostitution was not criminalized until the late 1980s, when “sex selling” or “having illicit relations with prostitutes” appeared in provincial regulations, although not in the Criminal Code of the People’s Republic of China.

In the early 90s, the buying and selling of sex was expressly prohibited and, in a subsequent review, penalties that had to be obeyed by violators were added, whose crimes, usually governed by Administrative Law, could even bring the death penalty in cases of organized networks or prostitution related to other crimes.

A shame march

Beyond the sentence imposed, prostitution in China has become very famous for the so-called “shame march,” where police parade suspects through the streets to, as they claim, “prevent others from following the same path”, a practice that was banned by the Executive in 2010.

The persecution has left cases like the one in Beijing in 2012, when more than one hundred people, including prostitutes and clients, were arrested and sentenced to prison in what is considered the largest operation against prostitution in the country. At the end of last year, joint operations in four provinces dismantled other networks which, in addition to sexual services, offered to “breastfeed” clients with breastfeeding women.

The blows, on a small or large scale, experienced by prostitution in China have made many “traditional” workers leave massage and karaoke homes to move to the environment, in theory, safer, social networks. “I arrived in Beijing in 2013 and started working as a massage therapist, but his salary was not enough to live and support my son in Wuhan (city of southern China). I started offering other services to clients but I lived in fear that someone would give me, so last year I quit my job and now I do the same thing but at home and contacting people via cell phones, “Chenguang, another prostitute, tell us about his experience.

The large number of social networks available, the equal demand for these services and the inability of authorities and companies to control each and every profile has made prostitution 2.0 grow exponentially.

“I am registered on six social networks and, although we cannot use very explicit terms, it is easy to know where to look. Have you ever closed an account, but it’s easy to open a new one. Social networking is very convenient; You negotiate prices, what you do and don’t do, and when to do it. They know what they want and me what I want to give them, “Yan said.

Despite Yan’s belief, which many people, like him, have used this medium to attract customers, security forces, along with software developers, are trying to narrow the fence around this phenomenon. In June last year, the Executive, in collaboration with technology giant Tencent, closed 20 million accounts related to prostitution on Wechat, the country’s most popular messaging application. This campaign, which seeks, according to the Government, “a healthy internet”, expands its field of action to Hong Kong and Macau, where more than 200 people were arrested for organizing “prostitution groups” on the social networks mentioned above.

Prostitution groups are groups where some men invite prostitutes. If anyone complains, they are expelled from the group. They are a closed environment where prices are negotiated, new members are introduced … and they are very complicated to control because without orders from the authorities we cannot access the conversation, so if there are no complaints or leaks, it may be months or years before was found.

However, the Chinese government tries to block it, the combination between the oldest business and technology is difficult to stem. Not only social media networks, sites like also bring together young women and their clients, not only in China but also in many countries.

Photo by Dil on Unsplash

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