Da Nang sends vulnerable sex workers to shelters

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A sex worker at a barbershop in the central city of Da Nang in 2014. Photo credit: Ngoc Truong/VnExpress A sex worker at a barbershop in the central city of Da Nang in 2014. Photo credit: Ngoc Truong/VnExpress

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Sex workers in Da Nang who are abused will be protected and sent to government-funded shelters under a new initiative that shows how the city, at least to some extent, is changing its stance on prostitution. 
According to a rule that took effect on March 1, sex workers can join the shelters if they have been lured into the trade, forced to serve clients against their will, or sexually abused. 
They will receive medical checks, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, psychological and legal consultation as well as vocational training.
Local police will work with the Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs to help bring in vulnerable sex workers. 
Dang Viet Dung, the city's vice mayor, said the new initiative aims to offer protection to sex workers, rather than punish them. 
After the first three months, the workers can extend their stay if needed. Local authorities will then help them find jobs. 
Last December, Da Nang reported that there were 18 sex workers in the city but the number was just “the tip of the iceberg,” because many others were not caught.
In mid-2013, Vietnam revoked a regulation that had for years forced sex workers into compulsory rehab centers.
Prostitution is still considered a “social evil” and sex workers are subjected to cash fines of up to VND300,000 (US$13). Sex procurement is a criminal crime.
Many sex workers who have been abused and had their lives threatened said they often felt they would not be protected by law enforcement.

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