Casino Lisboa, Macau. "Scores of legally tolerated prostitutes, many of whom live in the casino's hotel, circle the Lisboa's public areas."[1]

Prostitution is legal in Macau[2] 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.[3] Street prostitution is illegal but sex work in a massage parlor is considered to be de facto legal.[4] The city has a large sex trade despite there being no official red-light district.[5] In addition to street prostitution, prostitutes work in low-rent buildings, massage parlours and illegal brothels, and the casinos, nightclubs, saunas and some of the larger hotels.[6] Most hotels, however, have suspected prostitutes removed from the premises.[7] Many of the city's sidewalks and underpasses are littered with prostitutes' calling cards.[2]

Macau's economy is based largely on tourism with significant input from gambling casinos, drugs and prostitution[8] which has led to the city being called a Sin City.[1] As the Macau administration relies heavily on taxes from prostitution and gambling,[2] the authorities have traditionally been reluctant to reduce the size of the sex industry.[8] The trade is said to be controlled by Chinese organized crime groups[9] with different gangs made up of people from different provinces in China, a system which has led to violent clashes.[10]


Prostitution was recorded in Macau during the 19th[11] and 20th centuries.[12] In the nineteenth century, in addition to conventional brothels, Macau had floating brothels known as "flower boats" which serviced foreign ships. After 1851 prostitution was regulated, and in the 1930s the government attempted to end the exploitation and abuse of prostitutes.[13] In the late 1930s there were 120 brothels in the city with 1500 prostitutes.[10]

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.[14] 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.[15][16][17] A subsequent Chinese national anti-corruption drive has reduced prostitution-related advertising and increased the number of inspections of illegal brothels.[18] Some underground brothels have been shut down[19] and over 100 people were arrested in connection with criminal involvement in prostitution at a Macau hotel.[20]

Sex trafficking

Main article: Sex trafficking in Macau

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.[21] There are also allegations that women are trafficked to Macau for prostitution from Mongolia, Russia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma, Central Asia[5][22] and South Africa.[2][23] A gang bringing South Korean prostitutes to Macau to serve Chinese men was arrested in 2015.[24][25] According to the United States embassy in Ulaanbaatar, estimates of Mongolian sex workers in Macau vary from 200-300 women.[26] 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”).[6] Human trafficking is illegal in Macau, with a maximum jail sentence of 12 years (15 years if minors are involved).[3]

The United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons ranks Macau as a 'Tier 2 Watch List' territory.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b Coonan, Clifford (25 July 2009). "China's sin city: Inside the world's biggest gambling den". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Katie Hunt (18 June 2013). "The dark side of Asia's gambling Mecca". CNN. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b Carvalho, Raquel (5 July 2015). "Macau's sex trade dealt a losing hand". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  4. ^ Zhidong Hao (2011). Macau History and Society. Hong Kong University Press. p. 180. ISBN 9789888028542.
  5. ^ a b "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery". GVnet. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Macau Sex Ring Bust Shows China Expanding Crackdown on Graft". Bloomberg Business. Shanghai. 16 January 2015. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Prostitution Solicitations OK At Lisboa Hotel Macau". 22 October 2013. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  8. ^ a b Leonard, Barry (2010). Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States. DIANE Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 9781437929201.
  9. ^ "2008 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)". U.S. Department of State. 25 February 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 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.
  10. ^ a b Zhidong Hao 2011, p. 180.
  11. ^ Melissa Hope Ditmore (2006). Melissa Hope Ditmore (ed.). Encyclopedia of prostitution and sex work, Volume 1 (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-313-32969-2. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 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
  12. ^ Roy Rowan (2008). Chasing the Dragon: A Veteran Journalist's Firsthand Account of the 1946-9 Chinese Revolution (illustrated ed.). Globe Pequot. p. 172. ISBN 978-1-59921-477-1. Retrieved 29 February 2012. The Central was Macao's glittering gambling casino, packed every night with Portuguese prostitutes, high rollers from Hong Kong, and hundreds of Chinese playing fan tan, their favorite card game.
  13. ^ Zhidong Hao 2011, p. 64–65.
  14. ^ Kenneth Hugh De Courcy, John De Courcy (1978). Intelligence digest, Volume 1996. Intelligence International Ltd. Retrieved 29 February 2012. 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.
  15. ^ Kenji Nakano (23 January 2015). "Japan's AV actresses rolling the bones in Macau". Tokyo Reporter. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Prostitution Scandals in Macau". So Much Poker. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  17. ^ Wesker (31 January 2015). "New non-gambling attractions in Macau". Pokerground. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  18. ^ "Macau remains a source territory for human trafficking". Macau News. 29 July 2015. Retrieved 8 August 2015.
  19. ^ Nylander, Johan (31 March 2015). "Where China's High-Rollers Go To Gamble After Macau Crackdown". Forbes. China. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  20. ^ Ying-kit, Lai (13 January 2015). "Stanley Ho's nephew, 96 'prostitutes' and five hotel staff held in Macau hotel vice bust". South China morning Post. Hong Kong. Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  21. ^ Hao, Zhidong (2011). Macau History and Society. Hong Kong University Press. p. 180. ISBN 9789888028542.
  22. ^ Danika Liu Dan; Hazel Wan Zhenxia; Amber Wu Xiaolei (28 July 2014). "Survive in the Cracks — the Sex Industry in Macau". US-China Today. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
  23. ^ "SA a human-trafficking hot spot, conference hears". Mail & Guardian. 18 October 2007. Retrieved 15 August 2014.
  24. ^ Chung Hyun-chae (18 January 2015). "Korean prostitution gang working in Macau nabbed". The Korea Times. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  25. ^ "Major Korean prostitution ring busted in Macau" (PDF). Macau Daily Times. 21 April 2015. p. 3. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  26. ^ "Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report for Mongolia". 13 March 2006. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  27. ^ "Macau 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report". U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 27 July 2018. Retrieved 26 July 2018.