Rights group urges China to repeal penalties against sex workers

Tue May 14, 2013 12:38pm EDT
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By Grace Li

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China should remove criminal and administrative penalties against sex workers which often lead to serious police abuses, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Tuesday.

The abuses include torture, beatings, physical assaults, fines and arbitrary detentions of up to two years, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses and state agents, according to the report.

Prostitution is not permitted under Chinese law, though the industry has boomed since the country launched economic reforms in 1978.

Human Rights Watch estimates that between four and six million people are engaged in sex work in China, the overwhelming majority of them women.

Sex workers are also subjected to forced HIV testing, privacy infringements and mistreatment by health officials, the report found.

"In practice, sex workers are treated as if they have no rights simply because they are sex workers," said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.

Police corruption is common in China, where a lack of rule of law sometimes gives them almost unrestricted power.

President Xi Jinping, who oversees the Central Military Commission, has made fighting graft a central theme since assuming the top job in the ruling Communist Party in November.   Continued...

Suspected prostitutes hide their faces after being detained by local police during a campaign aiming to crack down on illegal venues offering entertainment as well as sex in Xuchang, central China's Henan province, December 11, 2006. Picture taken December 11, 2006. REUTERS/China Daily