January 2, 2014

"The murky penal system for prostitutes, 'custody and education,' is strikingly similar to re-education through labor."

"Centers run by the Ministry of Public Security hold women for up to two years and often require them to toil in workshops seven days a week for no pay, producing toys, disposable chopsticks and dog diapers, some of which the women say are packaged for export..."
The Chinese government’s approach to prostitution is inconsistent. After the Communist victory in 1949, Mao Zedong made the rehabilitation of prostitutes, whom the Communists saw as victims of capitalist exploitation, a priority. During his first years in power, he effectively eradicated the trade. But the introduction of market overhauls in the early 1980s led to a resurgence in prostitution, and up to six million women were estimated to be working in the sex industry in recent years, according to a United Nations report....

The indignities of incarceration do little to dissuade women who can earn more than $1,000 a month as prostitutes, triple the average income for unskilled laborers in China. Ms. Li, the single mother of two, said she was illiterate and could never make as much money in a conventional job.
IN THE COMMENTS: EDH says:
Seems like two separate policy issues: How to regulate the market activity of prostitution, and forced labor in the penal system.
And  I say:
I know. It seems like the NYT intended to crank the reasoning forward a few steps and then didn't do it. There's a whole communism vs. capitalism theme. Mao "effectively eradicated" prostitution. Now, China, moving into capitalism, has women drawn into sex work because it pays 3x as much as other available work, and then they are imprisoned and used for unpaid labor (and also made to pay the costs of imprisonment), so both of these things have to do with a profit motive. But the article never says that. It begins and ends with "human interest" material about a particular woman folding paper flowers or sewing stuffed animals. Something really unformed about this article! Where are the human-interest details about the prostitutes Mao effectively eradicated?

8 comments:

Revenant said...

Mao didn't eradicate prostitution. He eradicated the women who engaged in it.

EDH said...

Seems like two separate policy issues: How to regulate the market activity of prostitution, and forced labor in the penal system.

Illuninati said...

Why does the government care about prostitution? What are males who don't have wives or girl friends supposed to do?

According to many articles, in China there are many more men than women due to readily available abortions which enable the parents to abort baby girls until they have a baby boy. The one child policy probably contributes to this imbalance since many families want at least one male heir. So when there are many single males, why shouldn't a girl make money off the system?
It's not like they have the Ten Commandments or Biblical injunctions against prostitution, so how can they rationally justify their laws against prostitutes?

Greg Hlatky said...

An American and a Russian visit a police station in Moscow. The Russian orates, "There is no prostitution in the Soviet Union. The laws of Marxist-Leninism make prostitution impossible!" The American points to several floozies sitting on a bench and says, "Then what are these?" The Russian replies, "Oh, those are just whores."

William said...

In Wild Swans, Jung Chang details how Mao was able to eradicate prostitution in Shanghai. Those prostititues who went back to their old trade after a prison sentence were shot. The Times reporter should have mentioned, if only in passing, this crime. The great crimes of Communism are consistently glossed over and consistently repeated.

Ann Althouse said...

I know. It seems like the NYT intended to crank the reasoning forward a few steps and then didn't do it. There's a whole communism vs. capitalism theme. Mao "effectively eradicated" prostitution. Now, China, moving into capitalism, has women drawn into sex work because it pays 3x as much as other available work, and then they are imprisoned and used for unpaid labor (and also made to pay the costs of imprisonment), so both of these things have to do with a profit motive. But the article never says that. It begins and ends with "human interest" material about a particular woman folding paper flowers or sewing stuffed animals. Something really unformed about this article! Where are the human-interest details about the prostitutes Mao effectively eradicated?

Michael K said...

A prostitute "mother of two?"

n.n said...

So, prostitution under both the imperial and communist systems. At least with capitalist reform, the early communists purges were ended. They still have to address state-sponsored executions (e.g. abortion) by the tens of millions; but, other than clinical slaughter, they have curbed their appetites.

The resurgence of prostitution was at the Communist's behest. There are two reasons that the Communists favor prostitution: misaligned social (e.g. abortion) and economic development. While capitalism has improved the latter, it continues to tolerate the former. The Communists promised to fulfill dreams of sex, money, and ego gratification and the consequences of their audacity are numerous.