A sex worker waiting for clients on a street in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Minh Hung
There are many foreign sex workers in Ho Chi Minh City but punitive measures like deportation are not taken against them, attendees said at a conference held in the city Tuesday on combating prostitution.
“When caught, many of these sex workers claim they are tourists who just want to make some money for a ticket to return home,” Dang Minh Su of the city Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs said.
“The clients of foreign female sex workers, mostly westerners, are often business owners who want to try something ‘new’.”
Foreign men involved in the trade are mainly from African countries, who serve both male and female clients, he said.
“There has been an increase in the number of foreigners working as sex workers in Vietnam,” he said without elaborating.
He said relevant authorities should scrupulously enforce a 2014 city decision to deport foreigners who are caught serving more than one client at a time.
A law sending sex workers to compulsory rehabilitation centers was rescinded a few years ago.
Now they can be fined up to VND300,000 (US$14) while their clients face fines of up to VND10 million ($460). People caught procuring prostitutes face criminal charges in addition to fines of up to VND20 million.
Su said it has become more difficult to tackle prostitution since most women sex workers refuse to take up new jobs and there are no regulations for handling male sex workers.
“There have been cases of sex workers forced to return to their hometown. They got off the bus as soon as it departed and went back to work in the city and got caught again soon,” he said.
Sex workers from the city face a fine, their migrating peers are fined and sent back home, and homeless ones are sent to social shelters.
According to the city Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, sex workers operate on 33 streets and in 667 establishments like hotels, bars, cafés, hair dressers’, massage parlors, etc.
Su said there should be stricter measures against owners of facilities caught with prostitutes, including cancellation of the license.
“There are streets lines with hotels that mostly serve prostitution and a fine is not a deterrent for them.”