Legalising prostitution in China

20121030-144555.jpg 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.



  1. Legalising prostitution will only open the flood gates for human traffickers and pimps to force their victims into prostitution while giving them a legitimate face in business. It has not worked in Holland and the latest I heard is that Holland is rethinking their position in regards to legalised prostitution.
    I have researched the area of the psychological effects of trauma on the behaviour of victims of human trafficking. It leaves them in a state of survival where they cannot ask for or accept help and where they are bound by a blind bond that this state creates between them and their abusers to such an extent that they prostitute themselves for the benefit of others. It doesn’t matter whether a woman enters prostitution via a pimp or a trafficker, once they are subjected to violence, threats or intimidation it has the same psychological effects on their behaviour. (check out ).

    So I say a big no to any person who argues for prostitution to be legalised.


    1. Thanks for your opinion and I’m sure others will be interested in your research. I’ll definitely be checking it out.


  2. Thanks for bringing this to attention Sophia. As one of your readers above already shared that Holland’s an example where legalizing sex did not really work out considering also the a small portion of migrant women being victims of sex-trafficking, but unfortunately this is the situation. There is no consensus amongst women rights activists/ feminists over this issue, I have had some troubling conversations with two feminists ironically from Holland and one from Norway being very adamant to legalize sex-work and propose it to be advocated within society. To answer my queries for an article when asked should prostitution be legalized, why so? The responses ranged from Yes, why not if other people want to follow other professions, they make a choice, so women or men who want to join sex-industry should also have equal rights to make their choices. One said, why force women to change their choice to not become sex-workers.
    To cut it short, I sometimes on a personal level feel frustrated to know that I am part of the women rights movements, where some “feminists” advocate dangerous and irresponsible ideologies.
    As Mr. John O’ Reilly has pointed out very correctly legalising prostitution will only open the flood gates for human traffickers and pimps to force their victims into prostitution while giving them a legitimate face in business. Sir I will surely check out your website.
    Thanks again Sophia!


  3. Thanks Saadia – your insight is really useful!


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