The social affairs ministry has called for stricter fines against pimps and patrons in an effort to stem a surge of prostitution that followed the abolition of compulsory rehabilitation centers for sex workers last year.
“The focus is not on targeting sex workers but on limiting the profusion of businesses that serve as fronts for prostitution,” Deputy Minister Nguyen Trong Dam told a conference on the issue in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.
Dam said the government would begin to raid prostitution dens operating under the guise of being, say, karaoke or massage parlors and punish their owners.
He said Penal Code 255 on procuring prostitution should be updated and a new article should be introduced about organizing prostitution.
“There should be additional terms for stepping up punishments on crimes like operating as a sex worker in public and procuring underage prostitution,” he said.
Dam also said the ministry’s draft proposal contains recommendations on increasing fines against patrons of prostitution and notifying the employers of patrons as a deterrent.
According to a report released by the ministry at the conference, Vietnam's population of sex workers is on the rise. The report estimated that there are nearly 33,000 sex workers in Vietnam; local authorities are monitoring about 9,000 of them.
Nationwide, the report said there are nearly 133,000 facilities offering various services that can be abused for prostitution (e.g. massage parlors, karaoke lounges, hotels, barber and hair-wash shops).
Dam said prostitution activities have become more open in spite of public criticism. Vietnam abolished the compulsory rehabilitation of sex workers last year and they now only face minor fines when caught, he said.
“There are new prostitution rackets, ‘hi-end’ call girls and prostitution involving foreigners.
“Male prostitution has become more popular in big cities in recent years and business is no less bustling than women. African men have been caught involved in prostitution.”
According to the ministry, the customers of sex workers belong to various social groups--75 percent are day laborers, 20 percent white collar workers and three percent civil servants.
“There has been a particularly dramatic rise in the number of foreign visitors involved in prostitution,” Dam said.
A recent report by the Ministry of Health noted a rise in HIV transmissions through sex. Accordingly, 45.3 percent of new infections in 2013 were sexually transmitted. Men who have sex with men accounted for less than 4 percent of last year’s new infections.