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International News

Sex Trade Thrives in China; Localities Exploit a Growing Business

January 9, 2003

Though technically illegal, what may be China's most dynamic capitalist enterprise -- a flourishing trade in sex -- has become increasingly open and ubiquitous across cities and towns. An estimated 10 million people take part in the industry, according to a 2001 US State Department human rights report. That would make it nearly as large an employer as China's state-owned businesses.

The sex trade is an increasingly significant channel for the spread of STDs, according to health officials. Since 1995, cases of gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia have increased more than 30 percent annually, according to government data. Experts say those numbers are surely low given that most patients seek treatment in private clinics that do not report data to central authorities. More than 120 million Chinese are already infected with hepatitis B, and at least 1 million have HIV, according to the government.

Local governments are enmeshed in prostitution through their ownership of hotels that draw customers and profit from the trade. However, for the Communist Party, having supposedly eradicated such social vices, the industry is deeply embarrassing. That has stymied efforts to regulate it and limit its harm.

In karaoke lounges, as well as massage and beauty parlors, prostitutes must hand over tips to everyone from the "mama-sans" who arrange the encounters to taxi drivers and tour agents who bring in clients. They must share their take with the bosses who employ protection syndicates that dispense a mixture of cash and violence to encourage would-be earnest local officials to look away, sources said. Much of the money lands in the hands of local police and other officials, according to those in the trade.

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Some local governments, such as the northeast industrial city of Shenyang, have tapped into the flow of money by taxing the trade. The resulting windfall encouraged other cities to follow suit. China's government tolerates prostitution for its economic value; many in the trade are helping to support families back home in struggling rural areas.

Back to other CDC news for January 9, 2003

Previous Updates

Adapted from:
Washington Post
01.04.03; Peter S. Goodman



  
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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
 

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