Happy Sex Workers’ Day!

by Intern Brittany J.

…Or what should have been seen as such, but…no, not so much for Ye Haiyan. The single mother, sex worker and activist has been detained by Chinese authorities for the organization of a mass protest of people carrying red umbrellas, banners, petitions, all promoting legalization of prostitution. According to non-profit publication  The China Development Brief, this protest was a first for China.

It seems that the last anyone has heard about Ye, also known as “Hooligan Sparrow,” is that she “cannot use the internet or talk” much, as she has been “with them.” She also mentioned in a text to Reuters that she is “at a ‘resort’ and receiving ‘re-education.” (Dissidents in China tend to be taken away for “vacation” or “studies” so that they may be kept from “moving about freely during sensitive dates.”

Ye believes that she is being held unjustly as her main aim is AIDS prevention. With the rise in popularity of sex work in China, so have the rates of victims to the disease. Ye’s theory is that with legalization there can be better options for protection of workers. She has created a website for sex workers and a non-government organization called the Chinese Womens’ Rights Workshop which distributes pamphlets and condoms in order to promote awareness. Ye had called for today, Tuesday, August 3rd to be Sex Workers’ Day, dedicated to what the World Health Organization estimates to be the country’s four million sex workers.

This protest comes just a few weeks after activists demanded the end of “shame parades,” in which police march suspected prostitutes through the streets, humiliating them for all to see in hopes of deterring potential new recruits. Outrage erupted as a recently-surfaced photo featured a woman “barefoot, handcuffed and led about by a rope.” Around 100 prostitutes were a television spectacle four years ago in Guangdong province and used to demonstrate the government’s dedication to eradicate sex work in China (images shown). The government has apparently seen the wrong in this and has finally enforced a ban.

[images: genchan.wordpress.com, factsanddetails.com; info: CBS, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Blogs, Yahoo! News, Reuters]

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