China's transgender sex workers 'marginalized and vulnerable'

Mon Jan 19, 2015 9:00am EST
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By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Xiao Tong was selling sex on the streets of Beijing when a man lured her into his car, flashed his police badge and took her to the station.

Once there, police pulled at Xiao's wig and punched her, before removing her bra and groping her during a body search.

"They asked really perverted questions, like, how do you have sex," Xiao said.

"I turned around and asked, do you want to try? Then he kicked me, really, he really kicked me."

Transgender sex workers like Xiao are among the most marginalized and vulnerable populations in China, according to a report by Asia Catalyst, a non-governmental organization which focuses on health and human rights in China and Southeast Asia.

Social stigma and workplace discrimination drive many transgender women, who were born male, away from their friends, families and hometowns and into sex work, leaving them vulnerable to HIV and abuse from police.

Being transgender in China is not illegal. But the absence of non-discrimination laws, lack of professional medical resources for transitioning and lack of targeted HIV services mean transgender people are poorly protected, the report said.

Prejudice is an obstacle to even the most basic, everyday tasks. Several transgender sex workers told Asia Catalyst they were afraid to use public transport, dress as they wanted or even leave the house to go shopping.   Continued...