Vietnam will not legalize prostitution, insists official

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A labor ministry official has asserted that Vietnam will not legalize prostitution as debates continue about the advisability of the move and the establishment of red-light districts as has been done in several other countries.

Addressing a recent press conference, Le Duc Hien, deputy director of the anti-social evils department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said although Ho Chi Minh City authorities have proposed the zoning of "sensitive services" into a designated area, those found providing commercial sex services would still be fined.

In a late interview with the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper, he admitted that it would not be easy to control and fine violators in an area with casinos, karaoke and massage parlors. The city should have careful, clear plans on this issue, he said.

He said Vietnam's traditional customs and ethical mores would not allow the acceptance of prostitution as an occupation and its legalization.

About 20 countries of over 200 in the world have legalized prostitution, but are facing management difficulties, Hien said, adding that the measure leads to spikes in drug-related crime, money laundering and human trafficking.

Hien was also quoted by the Vietnam News Agency as saying that the situation regarding prostitution in Vietnam was "complicated" and that the country has around 30,000 sex workers.

He said the types of prostitution services and means of communication between these service providers and customers had become much more diverse than before.

Prostitution is no longer an urban phenomenon, it has spread to rural and mountainous areas, Vietnam News Agency said, citing the anti-social evils department's statistics.

Under Vietnamese law, a sex worker is fined VND300,000 (US$14) for first offence, and VND5 million for subsequent offences.

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A report by the labor ministry released last March, which concluded that high and stable income from sex work prompts several prostitutes to persist with the jobs, showed that female sex workers earn an average of VND10.6 million a month while the average monthly earnings of a male prostitute is VND6.55 million.

The report was based on a study that interviewed 189 male and 199 female prostitutes in Hanoi, Hai Phong and HCMC. Three-fourths of the respondents said they were 25 or under when they started this work.

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