Vietnam's sex industry evolves beyond laws

By Thu Hang, Thanh Nien News

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Photo credit: Lao Dong Photo credit: Lao Dong


Vietnam has long maintained that it's home to 11,240 sex workers, but the real number has grown much higher thanks to new advertising venues like Facebook.
During a meeting in Hanoi on Friday, researchers and government officials agreed that prostitution is concentrated in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the surrounding areas.
Officially, the capital is home to 3,673 sex workers and the southern economic home has 3,200.
The National Committee for AIDS and Prostitution Prevention co-organized the meeting with the ministry of social affairs to review the effects of a new anti-sex industry ordinance that went into effect in 2003.
Officials said the sex trade has only grown harder to control and monitor.
Nguyen Trong Dam, Vice Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the industry has expanded in ways that the laws never addressed in the first place, including sex tours, foreign sex workers, male and transgender sex workers, and same-sex services.
Dam said sex is procured more discreetly on the Internet, especially Facebook.
Officials say the business not only increases the burden of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, but also fuels the trafficking of women and children.
Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, which imposes criminal punishment for procuring and organizing the service.
Sex workers can face fines of VND300,000 (US$14.2) for their first offense and up to VND5 million for repeat offenses. Their clients can be fined VND500,000-5 million depending on the circumstances.
The country used to send sex workers to re-education camps but has stopped doing so a couple years ago due to concerns about human rights abuses.
Now, officials in Hanoi and HCMC say that was a mistake, since sex workers no longer see any deterrent.
Officials also criticized a lack of support for sex workers who wish to reintegrate into the community through other means of employment.
Such programs were established years ago, but only 500 workers received loans worth just VND2 billion ($95,000), according to the social affairs ministry.
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam told the group that the government will create a more proper set of laws to better address the problem.
Dam promised that the laws will be written with a respect for human rights in mind.

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