An article in the Economist last month saw a debate emerge which is by no means new amongst anti-trafficking activists, despite the title ‘Old Profession, New Debate’. It brings you the campaign of Ye Haitan, looking to legalise prostitution in China and who has even volunteered as a prostitute for two days as a campaign stunt. Ye Haitan’s gripe is that in China’s booming sex trade (approximately four to six million sex workers are estimated to exist), workers are operating in squalid conditions while legalising it will mean women will be safer, it would be better for public health. It would also stop victimising prostitutes who usually take the brunt of criminal action while punters go free.
Many argue however, that decriminalisation does not remove exploitation but does remove the any focus that may have been placed on it by law enforcement. If red light areas are no longer ‘illegal’ per se, there becomes a reduced need for raids and the perfect place for the buying and selling of young women and girls. Some may argue it increases trafficking and child prostitution.
It would be interesting to know the opinions of former prostitutes or victims on the issue.