"Custody and Education": Arbitrary Detention for Female Sex Workers in China

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Year: 
2013

The Chinese government is arbitrarily detaining sex workers through a flawed government policy purportedly aimed at education and rehabilitation, Asia Catalyst said in a new report released in December 2013.

The report documents excessive use of force by police in the detention of female sex workers, as well as the women's subsequent incarceration in the little-known "Custody and Education (C&E)" system.

Asia Catalyst research found that under the C&E system, sex workers and clients are deprived of their freedom for long periods of time with no genuine right to challenge the decision or external safeguards. Public security organs have full control over the decision, execution and supervision of C&E, which authorizes officials to detain sex workers and their clients for a period of six months to two years, without trial or judicial oversight.

Asia Catalyst and two partner organizations interviewed 30 female sex workers and one law enforcement officer in Northern China from December 2012 to July 2013.Interviewees reported experiencing physical violence at the hands of police, including use of force to extract confessions. Police officers also extorted large amounts of money in exchange for the release of detained women, imposing a heavy economic burden on sex workers and their families.

Asia Catalyst also found that detainees inside the Custody and Education centres had to pay for their stay, including for health treatment and services, at costs much higher than outside. Women were subjected to compulsory STD testing, without being informed of the results or access to adequate counselling. There were few opportunities for education, with detainees forced to conduct long-hours of manual labour without compensation.

"Internationally, there is no evidence that facilities such as C&E centres are conducive to the health or medical treatment of detainees, nor do they provide effective care or protection," said Mohamed. "In fact, the international community has reached a consensus that decriminalization of sex work, with access to rights-based and community-based services are the way to go."

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