Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam and sex workers face fines VND300,000 (US$14.2) for their first offence and up to VND5 million for repeat offences. Their customers would be fined VND500,000-5 million depending on the circumstances.

But civil society has been pressuring the government to legalize prostitution so that the industry could be regulated.

The ministry said prostitution has become increasingly complicated to control, as those involved are employing new schemes to avoid being detected.

It said the activity is most robust in large cities like Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hai Phong and the nearby Nam Dinh Province, and tends to be more common in tourist destinations.

Local statistics showed that of the country’s more than 83,000 shops offering body services, such as spas, salons and barber shops, more than 8,000 are suspected to provide sex services.

Programs to help sex workers reintegrate into the community were established years ago, but only 500 of them were supported by loans totally just VND2 billion (US$95,000), the ministry said.

It also said other crimes related to prostitution increased from 2012, by 200 cases and 500 people involved.

Thanh Nien News - January 12, 2014