China: Ye Haiyan fights for prostitutes' rights


A woman waits for customers in the doorway of a neon-lit barber shop in Beijing on July 9, 2008.


Frederic J. Brown

China has an estimated 4 to 6 million sex workers and Ye Haiyan wants to help them all. 

To understand her cause, Haiyan, now 37 years-old, lived a few days in the life of a prostitute. She offered herself, free of charge, to migrant workers, the Global Times reported.  

Later she wrote about her experiences, and the Shanghaiist published one of her translated posts: 

"Beginning now, I am providing free sexual services for rural migrant workers. First of all, this is to prevent them from being caught and legally robbed by police. Secondly, this is to serve the sexual needs of the grassroots and help relieve social pressure. Thirdly, I want to create a sharp contrast between my love for the grassroots and the cruelty of the government. I hope that they will be touched by my action, which will end tomorrow."

Called the sex-worker warrior, Ye Haiyan hopes to improve conditions for sex workers. She established the China Grassroots Women’s Rights Center in Wuhan, according to the Daily Beast

She also created a website for prostitutes:

“I wanted to give sex workers a place to express their opinions,” she told the Daily Beast. “Other websites would kick people off if it was known that they were prostitutes. I felt I had a voice and that a lot of people could hear me. I felt I could make a contribution to society.”

Haiyans efforts have not gone unopposed. In May she was attacked in her office by eight men, according to the Shanghaiist.

After the attack, according to Shanghaiist, she wrote, "I'm doing all of this because I love my people and I love my country. I don't want foreigners to laugh at us and say we don't have human rights and don't have any human decency."