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China: Prostituting to Defend Sex Workers’ Rights

Well-known blogger and feminist activist Ye Haiyan, also known as Liumang Yan (Hooligan Sparrow), decided to provide sexual services to rural peasant workers on January 11 in defense of sex workers’ rights after she witnessed a recent raid by police officers in a brothel in Guangxi province.

Liu wrote about her day of prostitution on her Sina Weibo account on January 12 and while her posts were removed by Sina employees, Liu has a backup of her writings on Tencent's Qzone personal diary site. Her account illustrates the lives of the lowest strata sex workers in China. Below is a reconstruction of her deleted Sina microblog posts taken from Qzone:

我今天在十元店潜伏做调查,正好遇上一个姐妹被警察抓走。这些姐妹与顾客一次性交的价格在10元至20元之间,属于低价交易,年关难过。希望警察按照中国法律的要求,酌情,从轻处罚,不要为了从中捞取好处,而选择最高量刑。也希望大家帮忙呼吁,使姐妹们免受合法抢劫。事发地,广西博白。

Today I conducted investigative research at a 10-dollar sexshop and witnessed the arrest of a sister by police. These sisters are paid between RMB 10-20 (USD 1.5-3) for having sexual intercourse with their customers. They are serving in the lowest strata of society. I wish that police would exercise discretion and not harshly exploit them with fines. I also wish the public would speak out against this legal robbery of our sisters. The arrest took place in Bobai, Guangxi.

这个姐妹十分热心,她辛苦赚钱,交完房租,准备回家过年。刚刚打好了洗头水,说洗完头就回家,结果就被警察抓了。 我想看看,中国政府,是以罚款为目的,还是为了解决民生治安为目的。性工作者在隐蔽的场所,解决了农民工的性需求,也解决了自己的生存问题,而中国政府在做什么?

This sister is very hardworking. She earns enough money to pay rent and is preparing to go home for the lunar new year. She was preparing to wash her hair when police officers apprehended her. I wonder whether such kind of a raid is for the sake of punishment or social security. Sex workers serve the sexual needs of rural migrant workers at the same time that they solve their own survival problems in a private setting. What has the Chinese government done to help them?

孟建柱老师:希望您能体谅民间的疾苦,不要从性工作者身上,谋取行政经费。特别是贫困的性工作者。希望公安部能在内部发个通知,对于贫困性工作者,在年关之际,少下黑手。 中国民间女权工作室叶海燕,深切恳求。

Master Meng Jianzhu [Translator note: Meng is China's Minister of Public Security]: Hope you can understand the pain of the grassroots. Don't exploit administrative fees from sex workers, especially the poorest among them. I wish that the Public Security Bureau could issue an internal notice and ask the police officers to stop raiding poor sex workers, particular as the new year approaches. A humble plea from Ye Haiyan, Chinese grassroots women's rights defender.

Ye Haiyan in a 10 dollar sexshop

我从现在开始,对来这里的农民工提供免费的性服务,一是以免他们被警察抓,处以高额经济处罚,被合法抢劫,二是为解决基层百姓的性需求,缓解社会压力做出努力。三是用我的高风亮节对比政府的麻木无情。希望对他们有所触动。活动明天结束。

Beginning now, I am providing free sexual services for rural migrant workers. First of all, this is to prevent them from being caught and legally robbed by police. Secondly, this is to serve the sexual needs of the grassroots and help relieve social pressure. Thirdly, I want to create a sharp contrast between my love for the grassroots and the cruelty of the government. I hope that they will be touched by my action, which will end tomorrow.

今天我提供第一个免费性服务的是一个18岁的农村孩子。他在门口转悠,问我多少钱?我说,你给多少钱?他说,十块钱可以吗?我问他多大,他说18岁,为什么来这种地方,是不是处男?他似乎听不懂,扭头要走。我说,来吧,我跟你做,不要钱。然后帮他带上套子,告诉他出门去玩一定要带安全套。

My first sexual service was given to an 18-year-old boy from a rural village. He was hovering outside the brothel before he asked me how much it cost. I asked him how much he could pay, and he asked if RMB 10 was enough. I asked him how old he was, he answered 18. I asked him why he came, whether he was a virgin. He didn't seem to understand my question and wanted to leave. I said: come in, I'll do it for free. I helped him put on a condom and reminded him to bring his own every time he needs this kind of sexual service in the future.

我为四个人提供了免费的性服务。其中一个老人五十多岁,他穿着很破旧,因为在下雨,他穿着雨衣,雨鞋,脸上满是皱纹,我说不要钱,他问为什么?当他看到我白嫩的身体,我相信他不理解这是怎么回事,我说我是北京派来的。这个社会有许多的不平等。起步,机会,权利,发展不平等,…性,居然也不平等。

I provided free sexual services to 4 people. One of them was in his fifties. It was raining and he was wearing rain clothes and boots, had wrinkles all over his face. I said I provided free service. He asked why, looking at my shining white skin, not understanding what the deal was. I told him I had been sent by Beijing. This society is so full of inequalities. Family background, opportunities, rights, development…even sex is unequal.

老百姓,只是打个炮而已。他打一次炮,只花十块钱,他开支得起。这对他的生活,不会有任何影响,对社会也没影响。他也许娶不起老婆,娶不到老婆,可去找个小姐,满足一下生理需求,你们却要在他身上抢劫三千,你们这些流氓强盗已经把他们逼到这样的角落,你们还要在暗地里,敲诈一笔,会不会太狠了点!

All the grassroots want is sex. He can afford RMB 10, it won't negatively effect his life or society. Men like him don't have enough money to get a wife, but at least they can fulfill their sexual needs through sex workers. Yet you want to rob RMB 3,000 from them? First you push them into the darkest corner, and still you want to rob him. Isn't it too cruel?

那个准备回家的姐妹今天出来了,罚了三千。她必须接150个客人。才能还清罚款。我觉得自己帮不上她,心里难过,不敢见她。我觉得自己很没用。看着这些姐妹被警察打劫,我却一点办法没有。

The sister who is preparing to go home for lunar new year was released today after paying a RMB 3,000 fine. Which means she'll have to take 150 clients to earn it off. I felt so bad that I couldn't help her when I saw them being robbed by police.

大家可以将心比心,回想一下,一个人,因为生存,而天天担心受怕的心情。她想要这20块钱,可在角落里,有一双眼睛却虎视耽耽盯着她的钱包,想要她的三千。她会快乐吗?最可恨的是,钓鱼执法,谁知道面对的这个男人是真正的嫖客,还是警察的线人。到底是会赚到20,还是会损失三千?

Please try to understand their fear and anxiety. She just wants to earn RMB 20, but someone is watching her purse at every instant, trying to snatch RMB 3,000 from her. How can she be happy? The undercover sting operations keep them living in fear, never knowing if a man is a real client or a police rat, the difference between whether or not she'll earn RMB 20 or lose RMB 3,000.

是什么人在消费十元店的姐妹?达官贵人会去十元店找那些老妈子吗?他们永远不会踏入他们认为肮脏,低级的地方!他们视这里面的人为猪狗。只有农民工会走进这里与大姐们平等相处。我的农民工客人,衣服里三层,外三层,件件都破了,我抱着他,心里充满了悲哀,难道生活紧迫到连补衣服的时间也没有吗?

Who would go to a 10-dollar sexshop? Will the rich come here for the old prostitutes? They would never come to such a filthy place, they look down upon them. Only peasant workers come here. The peasant worker client that I served, his clothes were all worn. I felt so sad when I embraced him. Doesn't he even have time to stitch up the holes in his clothes?

那里的男人说,我是最温柔的小姐。其实我不是温柔,是我懂得尊重他们,把他们当成自己的兄弟,亲人,没有看不起他们,把他们当成像“大老板”一样的男人。不管他的衣服多么破旧,身上多少泥水,我把他抱进怀里,安慰他。让他感觉到自己是有人喜欢的。

The men there said I am the kindest woman in the shop. Actually, I just pay respect to them and see them as my brothers, as family. I don't look down them, rather I treat them like “the boss” no matter how worn-out their clothes are or how dirty they are. I embrace them and sooth them, let them feel that someone still likes them.

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