Jie Gao, China, 2009
It`s easy to fall down in Jie Gal, on the Chinese side of the Simo/ Burma border.
There are over 20 brothers in this border town and most of the sex workers are from Burma.
They all came hoping for something quite different, expecting to work in a factory, restaurant or as a maid. Soon after arriving however, a young migrant or refugee quickly learns that good well paying jobs are few and far between. In order to pay off their debts and support themselves many have little choice but to sell their bodies.
They spent and borrowed a lot to come, so most can`t just to go back home without first earning money. Their families back home expect them to send money too. Although Burma has a plenty natural resources like natural gas, jade and rubies, the Burmese economy is in shambles.
For the average urban family in Burma even if both parents work, it`s hard enough just to feed their family, let alone pay for all the children to go to school. The prospects in the war torn countryside can be even worse. So many young people decide to migrate oversea to support themselves and their family.
A migrant`s workers status in China is very precarious and for those in the sex industry the risks are all the greater. Although a Burmese citizen can get a 3 month residency permit confining them to living along the border, prostitution is illegal in China and there is a constant fear of being captured by the Chinese police. If they are caught, they typically have to pay 500 yuan each to be released.
500 yuan is a large amount of money, as they make 14-28 yuan for each trick and 150 yuan for spending the night with a customer. At least half of their income goes to pay the brothel`s madam.
Their precarious status and their depressing surroundings push many to use drugs for relief, so they can forget about their difficult life or simply get enough energy to please their clients and make it through the night.
It`s easy to get drugs in Jie Gao, the China/Burma border is a hotspot in the global drug trade. The most common drug found along the border today or in fact in much of Asia are amphetamines of yaba”. One hit costs only 10 yuan and drug dealers are always around despite China`s tough laws. Heroin is also available, but it cost over 100 yuan, so most users, client and prostitute alike, use yaba, heroin`s synthetic substitute.
Once she starts to use regularly, dependence and addiction come easily. As more and more of her income disappears in a cloud of yaba smoke, she will stop sending money to her family in Burma
Here you can see a perfect downward spiral for Burmea`s women. This spiral will never stop until the Burmese regime changes. A junta which ignores the country`s people and only seeks to Erich the generals and their cronies.