Vietnam should establish red-light districts as a way to control prostitution, an official told a conference Tuesday.
Chung A, former deputy chairman of the National Committee for Prevention and Control of AIDS, said that while prostitution is not recognized as a legal profession in Vietnam, a series of “sensitive services” - a common term used for businesses that can be easily abused for prostitution activities like massage parlors, hotels, or karaoke bars - are licensed and thus flourishing.
He said that prostitution was thus difficult to control.
He was speaking at a conference on measures to prevent and control prostitution.
On the other hand, prostitutes, once caught, face administrative fines only, rather than being brought to rehabilitation centers, he said.
The fines are usually light, ranging from VND300,000 (US$14) to VND4 million ($189), according to A, which would not deter them from relapsing into the illegal business.
According to the Department for Prevention and Control of Social Ills, there are currently around 32,700 sex workers in Vietnam, up 9.3 percent compared to 2012.
There has been much debate about whether or not Vietnam should legalize prostitution.
In January last year, Ho Chi Minh City's Anti-Social Ills Agency proposed that the city administration seek approval from the central government to plan specific areas for "sensitive services” where prostitution would be allowed and possibly regulated.
But the city administration shot down the proposal.
According to the agency, the fight against prostitution has become an almost un-winnable battle and many district officials said their efforts to prevent and fight prostitution have been ineffective.
Last December, a member of the Politburo - the Communist Party's decision-making body - rejected the idea that HCMC should have a red-light quarter.
"It is impossible to do so because it is against the system's nature and the peoples' moral standards," Le Thanh Hai, chief of the city's Party unit, said at a meeting with constituents in HCMC.