Conservative politicians often set forth a prim view of American society that is reminiscent of Victorian Britain. At the same time, they are all for a vigorous free-market economy. So when it comes to the growing international free market in sex, economics and sexual prudery clash head-on.
In China, our new major trading partner, the buying and selling of women for wifely duties is becoming big business. And the market is keenly competitive due to that nation’s long-standing preference for boy children over girl children, which has contributed to an overall shortage of wives.
The UN is against turning women into whores, and President Bush himself has inveighed against sex trafficking. But the business nonetheless is developing into a large market. China sits in the middle of the sex business, and according to U.S. officials, Russian, Vietnamese, North Korean, Laotian, Mongolian, Tibetan, Burmese, and Thai women and children are brought into the country for such work, while Chinese women and kids are sold in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, North America, and Europe. The women are often recruited or forcibly kidnapped from among large groups of migrants who travel around China, taking short-term jobs.
When China’s Southern Weekend, the country’s largest-circulation weekly, investigated trafficking in Dizhuang village of Xupu county last year, reporters learned that over half of the local women and schoolgirls were abducted and coerced into a life of prostitution by “group leaders.” These men run mob-like organizations, sometimes including cops, that have carved up local areas into distinct markets. Members of a local mob will go through villages to find women and bring them to “matchmakers,” themselves prostitutes, who recruit the women by dint of persuasion or outright kidnapping. The women are conditioned (gang-raped), run through a humiliating training course, and taught “professional skills,” i.e., how to get money from their clients. The newspaper found that villagers reviled these group leaders and their mobs, while at the same time expressing their approval for the service the mobs are providing.
In Dizhuang, women are considered profitable, and men openly encourage their wives or girlfriends to become prostitutes.
Additional reporting: Alicia Ng and Ashley Glacel
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 27, 2004