Vietnam scraps regulation forcing prostitutes into rehabilitation centers

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Vietnamese lawmakers have passed a law that overturns a regulation under which people found guilty of prostitution are sent to rehabilitation centers.

The Law on Handling of Administrative Violations, to take effect in July 2013, was passed at a National Assembly session Wednesday with more than 85 percent of deputies voting for it.

The clause to abolish the regulation got 394 votes for and 108 against, while 16 legislators abstained.

Currently, sex workers aged between 16 and 55 are sent to the centers for three to 18 months.

Earlier in the house the chairman of the NA legal committee, Phan Trung Ly, called for scrapping the regulation, saying it is unreasonable that some are forced into the centers even when they have no disease.

"Moreover ... [sex workers'] crimes are not so serious that their freedom should be curtailed," he said, adding they should also be fined just like their customers.

Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam.

Ly said his committee wants the government to create jobs for sex workers, offer them loans, and help them reintegrate into the community after quitting sex work.

A recent survey by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs found that more than half of sex workers are in it voluntarily because of high incomes.

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It said that on average a sex worker earns VND8.6 million (US$410) per month. Five percent of respondents admitted to earning more than VND20 million. Vietnam's per capita income last year was $1,300.

Earlier this month police arrested Vo Thi My Xuan, winner of the 2009 South Mekong Beauty Pageant, for running a high-class prostitution ring that employed models and beauty queens.

Police said the women charged up to $2,500. Xuan also reportedly told them that some clients paid as much as $25,000 for a three-day tour to another country.

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