What is the legality of prostitution in Shanghai?

Is Prostitution Legal in Shanghai?

Prostitution is illegal in Shanghai, as well as in the entire People’s Republic of China. The government has implemented strict laws and regulations to prohibit sex work and related activities, such as organizing or soliciting prostitution. However, despite the laws, the underground sex industry still thrives in many parts of the city.

What Are the Penalties and Enforcement Measures for Prostitution?

Both sex workers and their clients can face penalties under Chinese law. The penalties for engaging in prostitution or soliciting sex services vary depending on the circumstances and severity of the offense. They may include:

  • Administrative detention for up to 15 days
  • Fines ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 RMB (approximately 700 to 2,800 USD)
  • Revocation of business licenses for establishments found to be facilitating prostitution
  • Imprisonment for more severe cases, such as organizing or coercing others into prostitution

Law enforcement agencies in Shanghai conduct regular raids and crackdowns on suspected brothels, massage parlors, and other establishments believed to be involved in the sex trade. They also work to combat human trafficking and protect the rights of victims.

How is Prostitution Referred to Locally in Shanghai?

In China, prostitution is often referred to as xiaojie (小姐), which translates to miss or young lady. However, this term is also used as a polite form of address for young women in general, so context is important when interpreting its meaning. Other euphemisms for sex work and related activities include:

  • Anmo (按摩) – massage, sometimes used to imply erotic massage
  • Karaoke bars or KTVs (卡拉OK) – establishments where clients can pay to sing with female hostesses, some of whom may offer sexual services
  • Hair salons or barber shops (理发店) – certain hair salons may operate as fronts for brothels

What is the History of Prostitution in Shanghai?

Prostitution has a long and complex history in Shanghai, dating back to the city’s rapid development as an international trading port in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The city was divided into foreign concessions, each governed by different colonial powers, which led to a thriving and largely unregulated sex industry. At its peak, Shanghai was known as the Paris of the East and the Whore of Asia, with an estimated 100,000 sex workers in the 1930s.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the new Communist government worked to eradicate prostitution, shutting down brothels and reeducating sex workers. Prostitution was largely eliminated by the mid-1950s, but it reemerged in the 1980s following the implementation of economic reforms and the opening of China to foreign investment. Today, despite its illegality, the sex industry in Shanghai continues to exist in various forms.

Where Can I Find Helpful Links, Government Laws, and Resources about Prostitution in Shanghai?

For more information about prostitution laws and regulations in Shanghai and China, you can consult the following resources:

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