Should prostitution be legalized? Never, says an author and former practising lawyer, and a scholar explains the risks prostitutes face in the absence of legal provisions.
Illegal 'profession' is risky business
It is not certain how many prostitutes are there in the country - the number ranges from 3-4 million to more than 10 million. But what is certain is that the sex industry spread across the country after the reform and opening up, and despite government efforts since the 1980s to eradicate it, it has grown roots everywhere.
Some are full-time prostitutes, some part time, and others give company to "clients". Then there are those who "work" in high-end nightclubs, charging more than 1,000 yuan for sex, some stand in and around parks selling their bodies for as less as 20 yuan. Some are young girls under 20, some above 40. Some are single, and some married.
Prostitution rackets are run roughly on four "models". In the first, women are treated as semi-slaves and don't have much personal freedom. In the second, madams offer them meals and apartments, where they are free to come and go. In the third, they are employed as "workers", though they have the liberty to leave any time they want to. And in the fourth, women run their own "business" and can have a husband or boyfriend who helps and protects them.
These facts came to light during a study. The first "model" can be found only in some inland areas. Women forced into such a state suffer more humiliation and are more vulnerable to violence and venereal diseases. Brothels are scattered across urban fringes or alongside highways and expressways, where very few job opportunities are available. In the third and fourth "models", women enjoy relatively more freedom. Such women can be seen in "clubs" and "bars" in downtown areas.
Most of the women are forced into prostitution by poverty. Many women, who cannot make ends meet despite their backbreaking labor, are lured into the flesh trade by "friends" or pimps. But there are a few who choose the "profession" to lead a "better life". A very disturbing trend of some people forcing even their family members into prostitution has to come to light. But such cases are rare.
Prostitutes face a lot of risks other than being vulnerable to venereal diseases like HIV/AIDS. They live under constant fear of being exposed in society and are afraid of unwanted pregnancy. They always face the risk of being beaten up by violent "bosses", customers or policemen. More and more cases of prostitutes being robbed or murdered are being reported nowadays. They are penalized for carrying fake ID, which they are forced to in order to move from place to place. Their lack of knowledge of the law, too, lands them in trouble.