Prostitution in Macau
Prostitution is legal in Macau unlike in mainland China, because the city is a special administrative region of the country. However, operating a brothel and procuring are both illegal in Macau, with the latter punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 8 years. The city has a large sex trade despite there being no official red-light district. The trade is said to be controlled by Chinese organized crime groups, which has occasionally led to violent clashes. Street prostitution takes place in Macau and prostitutes also work in low-rent buildings, massage parlours and illegal brothels, and the casinos, nightclubs, saunas and some of the larger hotels. Most hotels, however, have suspected prostitutes removed from the premises. Many of the city's sidewalks and underpasses are littered with prostitutes' calling cards.
Macau's economy is based largely on tourism with significant input from gambling casinos, drugs and prostitution which has led to the city being called a Sin City. As the Macau administration relies heavily on taxes from prostitution and gambling, the authorities have traditionally been reluctant to reduce the size of the sex industry.
Prostitution took place in Macau during the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 1990s there were reports alleging that Chinese triad members were arranging marriages of convenience with Portuguese prostitutes in order to secure Portuguese citizenship. In early 2015 there were tabloid reports of popular Japanese pornographic film actresses coming to Macau to work as prostitutes; their clients were said to be rich Chinese men. A subsequent Chinese national anti-corruption drive has reduced prostitution-related advertising and increased the number of inspections of illegal brothels. Some underground brothels have been shut down and over 100 people were arrested in connection with criminal involvement in prostitution at a Macau hotel.
Syndicates from China are said to lure women from mainland China to work as prostitutes in Macau with false advertisements for casino jobs, work as dancers, or other types of legitimate employment. There are also allegations that women are trafficked to Macau for prostitution from Mongolia, Russia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Central Asia and South Africa. A gang bringing South Korean prostitutes to Macau to serve Chinese men was arrested in 2015. According to the United States embassy in Ulaan Bator, estimates of Mongolian sex workers in Macau vary from 200-300 women. Macau has been put on a U.S. State Department watch list for human trafficking, ranked at Tier 2 (territories which do not fully comply with minimum standards in the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 “but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance”). Human trafficking is illegal in Macau, with a maximum jail sentence of 12 years (15 years if minors are involved).
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Prostitution is legal and common; however, procurement and the operation of a brothel are illegal. Nevertheless, the SAR had a large sex trade, including brothels, most of which were believed to be controlled by Chinese organized crime groups, and many of those exploited by the trade were women.
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By 1845, the total number of prostitutes increased, to 123. Most were Chinese, with a minority of them being Portuguese (the Portuguese colony of Macao was near), or other nationalities. At those times, prostitutes concentrated in the
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Triads in Portugal. Sources in Lisbon say that Chinese triad gangs from the Portuguese colony of Macau are setting up in Portugal ahead of the handover of Macau to China in 1999. Security sources fear that as many as 1000 triad members could settle in Portugal. They are already involved in securing Portuguese citizenship for Macau residents by arranging marriages of convenience with Portuguese prostitutes.
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