High income luring students, celebs into sex industry

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Vietnam's sex industry is getting more "complicated", with younger people like students and attractive women from the showbiz industry drawn by the promise of high income, an anti-social evil official says.

"Investigations done over the first six months this year show the income of sex workers is very high, at more than VND10 million (US$480) a month on average," Le Thi Ha was quoted as saying in a Tien Phong Friday report.

The deputy head of Social Evils Fighting and Prevention Department at the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs expressed concerns over the "very complicated" prostitution situation in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and the northern port city of Hai Phong, famous in Vietnam for the operation of underworld gangs.

"There're many reasons that models, actresses and beauty queens sell sex, but the main one is that it is lucrative. There are women able to earn several thousand dollars each time," Ha said.

One prominent ring busted in early June was run by Vo Thi My Xuan, 2009 winner of a Mekong Delta beauty contest, and Ho Chi Minh City actress Thien Kim. It employed many other showbiz women such as Jenny Phuong, a model and actress who was poised to attend the Mekong beauty pageant; model Ngoc Thuy, 23, a TV actress; Le Thi Yen Duy, 22-year-old beauty queen of the Mekong delta contest in 2010; and a 25-year-old college student.

Police said the women charged up to $2,500 per session, while Xuan told them some customers paid as much as $25,000 for a three-day tour to Singapore.

Another ring busted in Ho Chi Minh City in late May also employed models and charged customers up to $1,500 each time.

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Following the busts, local media ran various reports putting more famous showbiz names along with the "sex workers" title, but they have been accused by the performers of slander.

Ha said it was not just college students, but those in high school and younger were also being caught up in prostitution.

"There has been sexual abuse of children and teenagers, including for commercial purposes," she said.

Ha said the department will soon propose to the government that it issues stricter punishments and measures against the spread of online porn videos and books targeting children, as well as new kinds of prostitution such as same-sex services.

Unsafe sex, especially among gay men, has been among the top causes of HIV spreading in the cities, she said.

She shared the views of Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong who said in an online dialogue on the government's website on July 24, that the proposal to legalize prostitution in Vietnam needs thorough studies in many areas customs, traditional culture, people's compliance with the law and modern lifestyles.

A recent report on global AIDS prevention released in the US shows that 160 countries in the world have laws to limit prostitution.

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