Tue, Jan 04, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Sex trade transforming Chinese villages

Girls in Yunnan Province said to `work outside' are bringing back fortunes from Thailand, earned through prostitution

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , Langle, China

"These girls are motivated by their families and by their neighbors for one basic reason, because they are really poor," said a Beijing-based sociologist who has studied the migrant sex trade in Yunnan.

"The women come home and build big cement homes, and this is like an advertisement to others: This is an easy way to make money. Everyone knows what these women are doing in Thailand, but no one calls it prostitution, even local officials, who talk only of girls `working outside.'"

The sociologist, who asked not to be identified because the subject was so sensitive, said that disease was rampant among women who worked in the sex trade, a situation aggravated by the fact that public health care was denied to illegal foreign workers in Thailand. Despite this, the researcher said, no special efforts have been made to prevent the spread of AIDS in Yunnan by women returning from working in the sex trade in Thailand.

In Mengbin, a small village of the Dai minority, of Thai ethnicity, reached after several hours' drive, the sex trade had completely transformed the local life, starting with the sumptuous villas that had become the rule rather than the exception.

The practice of using beauty and sex to secure a livelihood had even worked its way into the home designs, with tiles depicting willowy, long-haired maidens interspersed here and there on the external walls and gates.

One rich matron, Dao Xiaoshan, proudly invited a visitor into her chateau-like home, with lace-covered couches, four chandeliers, a large, golden Buddhist altar and twin home-entertainment centers.

The secret of this bounty, she said lay in her husband's ownership of a coal mine. Others might conclude her luck was in having two daughters, 23 and 21 and beautiful, as seen in large, formal photographic portraits she had on display, including one showing a daughter dressed up in the gilt and violet regalia of a Thai princess.

"They have been able to work outside, but I've never asked them what they do," said Dao, who appeared to be in her 50s. Lately, she said, one daughter had found happiness with a rich Singaporean, the other with a wealthy Malaysian.

What about the young men here? "Dai boys can't marry Dai girls, because they all leave, and the ones who come back don't like the local boys anymore," Dao said, with a chuckle.

"Dai girls are beautiful, and they are very popular, but not all of them bring home money. Some of them don't know how to do anything but spend money and have a good time."

This story has been viewed 15785 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top