By Meg Davis
Originally published in the Health and Human Rights Journal “Health and Human Rights” magazine’s blog 

In China each year, and important government meetings before holidays, the Chinese government will regularly “social undesirables” such as sex workers, drug addicts and other groups were crackdown. Sex workers, and women activist Ye Haiyan (also known as rogue Yan) is continually proposed crackdown influence caused by low-income sex workers, and emphasized the plight they face.

While the international community often work on criminal penalties heated discussion, but sex workers are rarely audible. In China, an emerging network services in the sex workers said the crackdown did not completely stop work, but lead to more sex workers to “underground” or more hidden places of work, which would exacerbate the violence they suffer and the risk of HIV infection.


Therefore, such a waste of national resources operations, not only failed, and ultimately will harm the most vulnerable groups in society.


Agency I work – Asian Association for providing technical support to communities affected by AIDS nonprofit organization. 2010, at the border between China and Vietnam, a certain city, I and a founder of the grassroots organization, but she was also a sex worker, came to the local red-light district. She pointed to a row of metal shutter door of the store, he said: “In the evening, all the bars here, which has sisters.” At the same time, through the row of shop facade, there is a blue light illuminated the facade, is a police station, a police officer being sitting at his desk filling.


“The police do not know?”


“Certainly,” she said, “Last month police assault just before, this street will be empty for some time, but soon …….” She looked at the positive side of the road a foot stilettos open shutter doors Prepare business woman, she trailed down.


Due to China’s rapid economic booming, social and economic power for industrial development provided a powerful impetus. In China far exceeds the number of men in women, gender imbalance, coupled with the growing gap between rich and poor, more and more migrant workers flooding into cities in search of jobs, but because women as well as men can not receive equal education or skills training, compared to factories in low-income and poor working conditions, a number of young women are more inclined to engage in sex work. Thus, China now has nearly four million in the bar or Station Street men and female sex workers.


More obvious and bold Chinese police services make very upset. In 2010, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security launched a nationwide anti-pornography action. Although similar operations are held regularly, but this time it is rare nationwide joint action. The action starts from Beijing to the local police raided an upscale places, and invite media tracking reports. Soon, the action spread throughout the country. This operation, many sex workers were sent to forced labor camps (which can be traced back to the Mao Zedong era punishment), but the reality is that no one can get in there real education.


At the same time, sex workers have begun to act. Wuhan 14 small non-profit organization jointly set up a national network, some of them are also sex workers. The network is committed to providing basic health services for sex workers, such as free medical, free condoms, and disowned the death of sex workers for those with family funeral.


The first major initiative of this network is to train members of the platform document the impact caused by the police crackdown, they are with the national contact 300 sex workers and collect their testimony, and ultimately the formation of a crackdown impact report. This is an unprecedented action. The report was released in December 2011 to the public, the report shows the impact of a devastating crackdown to sex workers.


The report pointed out that despite the crackdown resulting in many stores closed, but work is still carried out. More sex workers into a more secluded place to work, causes AIDS outreach workers could not find them. In addition, the police are still to condoms as evidence of prostitution, sex workers led to lower condom use. “If I took cover, when I explain how?” He asked a sex worker.


Chinese sex worker once told me that when they were beaten or raped in their work when they do not go to the police, because the police that they would be subjected to ridicule, and will be accused of prostitution were arrested. During the crackdown, many sex workers will continue to replace the new place of work, which leads to their isolation in the environment, can not get peer support, and therefore more vulnerable to violence.


Because sex workers can not afford large fines, so the reception had to go more guests. There are also some sex workers said they had been abused during police raids. One sister truthfully said: “Since the crackdown, I have no property damage, but I lost confidence in the future of many of us feel is just panic, nightmares, anxiety.”


Crackdown aimed at improving the social and moral environment, but which may increase the risk of mass infection of AIDS, and increase the risk faced by vulnerable groups in society violence. China and some other Asian countries, sex workers are constantly calling for an end to criminal penalties for sex work. They believe that the only way sex workers to use condoms, in order to coordinate AIDS prevention and control work in order to report violent crime they face; the police can be more free hand to combat violent crime, national policies are also able to be based on facts, not and then on paper rhetoric.


“Stop the crackdown,” which is a sex worker demands, and it is time we listen to their demands of.

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