Over My Dead Body! Media Constructions of Forced Prostitution in the People's Republic of China

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Elaine Jeffreys


This paper examines some of the tensions surrounding the PRC’s official policy of banning prostitution by focusing on two highly publicized cases of deceptive recruiting for sexual services—the ‘Tang Shengli Incident’ and the ‘Liu Yanhua Incident’. Both cases involve young rural women who had migrated from their native homes to other more economically developed parts of China to look for work. Both were forced to sell sex and both resisted. However, whereas Tang Shengli jumped from a building rather than be forced into prostitution, Liu Yanhua escaped from conditions akin to sexual servitude by stabbing her ‘employer’. An examination of these cases highlights some of the problems associated with efforts by the Chinese women’s media to promote and protect women’s rights in a country marked by rapid, yet unequal, economic growth and an expanding, albeit banned, sex industry.

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Special Issue Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Elaine Jeffreys, IIS UTS

Elaine Jeffreys studied political science at the University of Melbourne. She is currently Senior Lecturer in China Studies at the Institute for International Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney. She is the author of China, Sex and Prostitution (RoutledgeCurzon, 2004). Her current research is on the regulation of new sexual behaviours in the People's Republic of China.