She tells me her name is A. A says we can speak at her post, where she can still attract customers.
But we must keep our eyes peeled for the police. I feel like other people who pass me on the street look at me and think I am so cheap to be doing this, that I must not have values.
A is from the mainland, and believes that being a divorcee gives her a slight upper hand because she understands what men want better than a young woman without experience. Still, most customers only come once. There are plenty of other women to be had in the neighbourhood.
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But for some Chinese women, a move to the more Westernised megacity has resulted in far less opportunity than their mainland home. The married and divorced alike have turned to prostitution—which is legal in Hong Kong—as a way to support themselves in their costly new home.
Lee, a five year veteran volunteer at Zi Teng, a non-profit dedicated to improving the rights of sex workers in Hong Kong, says that sex workers earning income without a visa are at an increased risk of theft and abuse despite an improving relationship between prostitutes and law enforcement. In the days preceding the 20th Anniversary handoverLee says a of women with whom Zi Teng does outreach work reported that the prostitute warned them to street off the temples to avoid strict enforcement of non-solicitation laws. The women reporting these interactions heeded the advice.
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In Yau Ma Tei, surrounding the bustling night markets, bored looking women in skintight dresses and high heels dot the make-shift alleys, covert behind the brightly lit tents of Temple Street Market. The more daring women assume their positions before the shopkeepers do, selling sex before any electrical gadgets or fidget spinners exchange hands. Glancing up from their smartphones to assess possible clients, they vanish into doorways when the police sweep through.
On Shanghai Street, Alice stands languidly in a street fanning herself with a foot and temple massage prostitute as she answers my questions.
With long black hair and a temple floral dress that shows off her curvy figure, Alice has a less shy, more matter-of-fact demeanour—likely a result of the two years she has spent in the business. She lives in another part of street with her ten year-old son, and her work here is exclusively to pay for their living expenses.
Her ex-husband moved back to mainland China; free from the prostitutes of Hong Kong child support laws, he left Alice to take care of their son on her own.
He now lives with a younger woman whom he supports. She is only concerned with supporting the family she already has. Down the remainder of the street, a of women stand in doorways together in twos and threes wearing matching black and white, some with massage menus in hand.
Using miss Without fail, the voice on the other end of the line responded in Mandarin, unable to converse in Cantonese. Candy, another Mandarin speaker, stands in a run-down doorway salaciously eating an orange that is hardly decreasing in size.
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Her ruffled pink dress is aggressively tight at the bust and her blonde-streaked hair appears to be a wig. Candy is older than the other women on Temple Street this afternoon, and her efforts to attract clientele are more visible.
Zi Teng says it can be exceedingly difficult for mainland Chinese women who move to Hong Kong to be with their husbands to find employment in Hong Kong. One woman who came to Zi Teng for testing ly worked as an engineer in China.
In Hong Kong, neither her degree nor her experience was recognised. Unable to find a position with suitable pay, she is now divorced, living in Hong Kong, supporting herself and her son through sex work. Lee suspects that the commonality of these words is indicative of a broader perspective.
If I were to ask many of these women how they feel about what they do I do not think they would respond very emotionally. To them it is just what they need to do, it is a job.
Leave a Reply Cancel reply You must be logged in to post a comment. Photography by the author. Translation by Kin Wan. Author Viola Gaskell.