Archive for May 27th, 2013

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.  –  Martin Luther King, Jr.

Swept AwayTwo weeks ago, Human Rights Watch issued a report on the official abuse of sex workers in China, and it was covered by every major media outlet in the world; I saw a plethora of links to the story on Twitter, and many readers sent them as well.  Here’s the one from the Guardian:

China’s high-profile crackdowns on prostitution have made sex workers more vulnerable to abuse by police and clients while failing to curb the trade…Women described being assaulted by police and other security officials until they admitted to being sex workers, leading to them being fined or detained for up to two years without trial…Prostitution largely disappeared in the Mao era but has flourished since China’s economic reforms began.  The United Nations estimates that between 4 million and 6 million adult women are engaged in sex work…Authorities have launched frequent drives against the sex industry, but…while such campaigns see hundreds of women rounded up, brothels often continue to operate with little obvious difficulty…three years ago the ministry of public security ordered an end to the public shaming of sex workers and said they should be treated more respectfully [but] problems remain widespread…Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch…said that one of the problems was that fines were a major source of revenue for the police…

This will of course all be familiar to regular readers, though I’m not sure what to make of the Graun’s touchingly-naïve acceptance of Maoist propaganda that there was no prostitution in the Glorious Workers’ Paradise.  Perceptive readers will also note that these same (or similar) abuses are widespread in Western criminalization regimes:

…police violence, arbitrary detention of up to two years in “re-education through labor” and “custody and education” centers, and coercive HIV testing…police [abuses include]…torture, beatings, physical assaults, arbitrary detentions, and fines, as well as a failure to investigate crimes against sex workers by clients, bosses, and state agents…“In China, the police often act as if by engaging in sex work, women had forfeited their rights,” said Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch. “The government must abandon its repressive laws against sex workers, discipline abusive police, and end the suppression of sex workers rights advocates”…

All those things happen in the USA as well, including the “re-education” being sold as an “alternative” to imprisonment in some jurisdictions; America also makes extensive use of sleazy tactics like “naming and shaming”, tax audits, stealing sex workers’ children and bogus felony charges (“conspiracy”, “money laundering”, etc) which are apparently not so common in China.  But while Human Rights Watch flatly recommends decriminalization in China (“China should…enact legislation to remove criminal and administrative sanctions against voluntary, consensual sex work [and] stop periodic police anti-prostitution ‘sweeps’, which do more harm than good”), its only statement on US prostitution law was a weak request to stop using condoms as evidence (an equivalent level of response in the Chinese report might have been “please limit sex workers’ detention to six months and always wear condoms while raping them”).  Furthermore, though Western journalists were happy to spread the news of China’s persecution of whores, they are just as happy to spread prohibitionist propaganda and maintain a politic silence about the horrific human rights abuses committed by Western police and officials.  Consider, for example, the rosy picture painted by the Swedish government and advocates of their “model”; supposedly, it reduces prostitution while not harming women in any way.  Contrast that with the truth which the mainstream media won’t report:

…The police have big difficulties in catching the clients so the activities are now aimed against sex workers.  To chase the girls requires plenty of resources and is not possible without employing policemen just for this – “Cunt Hunters”…I was visiting Trondheim for work in May 2012.  At the evening of the first day the boss of the apartment hiring company came to the condo and threw me out…Two [cops] were observing, disguised as repairmen who were been circulating in the stairs…They had watched my advert in the internet, called me pretending to be clients, came watching and after that had called the director…[who] refused to [refund my rent]… Trondheim’s…Propaganda Department of the Police [says that they] aim to make Trondheim unattractive as a working place by first finding the sex workers and after that taking their clients away…and [evicting them] from hotels…

Swedish copyright arrestThat was written by an escort from Norway (her English is excellent, but I did make a few slight edits for readability; you will note that like me, she refers to client criminalization as the “Swedish disease”).  Though her description of the abuses is unusually thorough, it is by no means the only narrative of its kind…though you wouldn’t know it from reading the mainstream media, who are so invested in portraying Sweden as a “feminist paradise” that the considerable evidence to the contrary is almost totally ignored:

A Swedish court has cleared three teenagers accused of rape for inserting a wine bottle in a girl’s vagina until she started bleeding…the men pinned her down on the bed and pried her legs open before inserting the…bottle…One of [them] allegedly told her not to report the incident to the police, which she nonetheless did…[the] court…ruled that…she may have kept her legs together initially out of modesty…

Imagine the outcry if this had happened in India.  Since “everybody knows” Asian countries are misogynistic hellholes of repression, watchdog groups readily chastise them and journalists eagerly report any story which serves to reinforce the narrative.  But when it comes to countries which “everybody knows” are champions of gender equity, fair treatment and civil rights, the silence from those same groups is deafening.

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