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When I was a high school student in a small town in southern China, my best friend Pang used to walk home with me everyday after school. One night he suddenly turned from a protector into a scaredy-cat, as the lights in the three hair salons near our houses turned red at 8 o'clock in the evening.
That's the first time I learned what prostitution actually looks like: A bunch of young girls arrayed in black mini and tights waving and whistling at a 15-yearold innocent boy who felt nothing but terrified.
Prostitution was made illegal after the founding of the PRC in 1949, although the industry rapidly reemerged, taking off in particular after market liberalization in the 1980s.
In recent years, however, the status of prostitution in China has been called into question.
Chi Susheng, a deputy to the National People's Congress from Heilongjiang Province, suggested in 2006 that China should legitimize prostitution so that sex workers could have regular health check and therefore would help prevent the spread of AIDS and other sexrelated diseases.With a more open and justified prostitution industry, could we expect the people to be healthier and happier? When prostitution becomes a kind of legal right, choosing to be a prostitute is freedom.
There's no need for certificate or education background, as long as you have the desire, you have got the potential to earn big money.
I would be petrified if I was a parent of a teenage girl. But legalizing prostitution opens up terrifying possibilities for everyone, even our dearest daughters.
Do we want to set them an example that selling their body is acceptable? Especially if the factor of social stigma disappears, it may be one of the easiest jobs any girl could find.
China once had a period when prostitution was vigorously advocated. Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was once a firm believer in promoting the sex industry. He believed that if the men in a society were sexually satisfied, the possibility of social unrest would increase.
In reality, Zhu's government officials recklessly spent the taxpayers' money on prostitutes. Instead of working for the people, they spent all the time indulging themselves in sex and booze, which pushed the nation on the verge of collapse.
Later, Zhu had to adopt a new policy to ban prostitution nationwide and labeled it as a serious crime.
The reality of the sex trade is brutal and exploitative, and legalization wouldn't make it any less so. China's ability to enforce regulations is weak, and the vast majority of sex workers would remain outside the legal sphere, still subject to violence and disease.
Sex workers worldwide are a relatively weak group. A large number of them are forced to sell their bodies by criminal groups or are victims of human trafficking.
It is even more so in Southeast Asia and some parts of China. Being financially poor, they are under social pressure such as discrimination and prejudice, and a lot of them do that just to support their family.
Since the purpose of legitimizing prostitution is to protect the sex workers, instead of encouraging them to sell their body, it would be much more effective to target the clients who are the driving force of the sex industry.
Since they are the ones behaving irresponsibly and exploitatively, and who have the money and the power, they should be punished and eliminated if the government truly wants to protect the weak.
The legalization of prostitution would mark the crossing of a moral line. Our bodies aren't merely instruments for making money, and that flesh cannot be converted into cash.
Sexual liberalization is one thing, but sanctioning the transformation of an act of intimacy into one of commerce would mark the final degradation of a society where material values have come to entirely override moral ones.
Absolute freedom with no strings attached is bound to cause social problems.
Prostitution means not only selling one's body but also giving up one's dignity and self-respect. If legalized prostitution proves anything at all, it is that money can buy everything and anything.