It is Vietnam’s consistent policy not to consider prostitution legal, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam said at a national conference to review the 10-year implementation of the Ordinance on Sex Work Prevention and Control organized in Hanoi on Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Dam added that anti-prostitution measures should be taken on the basis of human rights protection.

He also warned that a number of relevant agencies have ignored prostitution, allowing it to continue existing.

The top official also criticized propositions that prostitution should be legalized to boost tourism.

“It is improper to say that sex work is essential for tourism development,” Deputy Prime Minister Dam said. “Such a view is only a particularized phenomenon,” he added, meaning to say that legalizing sex work has been proposed only by a minority.

“Today we share the same point of view that Vietnam resolutely does not recognize prostitution as legal, but solutions to sex work prevention and control should be the ones that help minimize damage for both sex workers and their clients. Those solutions must be taken on the basis of respecting human dignity and human rights,” he stressed.

The deputy prime minister’s strong statements came in response to a number of opinions from lawmakers as well as other officials who suggested that sex work should be legalized in Vietnam as it serves an essential need of people and such legalization would help improve the management of sex workers.

During a meeting of the law-making National Assembly in November 2011 to discuss the bill on penalties for administrative violations, some deputies advised that prostitution should be seen as a legitimate profession.

One of them was chairman of the Hanoi Farmers’ Association, Trinh The Khiet, who told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper: “Prostitution is a reality in any modern society and it is time for us to adopt a new viewpoint on this issue. We have long stuck to a view that sees prostitution as a social evil that must be eliminated. But in reality, prostitution not only has existed – and still exists – in our country but it has even become increasingly rampant.”

“In the face of such a reality, I think we should consider prostitution a legal job and assign places for sex workers to earn their living,” he said.

Khiet also pointed out that a number of countries have regarded prostitution as a lawful profession and they have put it under control.

“Therefore, we have two options here. The first is to ban prostitution but fail to control it, and the second is to accept it and control it well.”

In September 2014, Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper cited Associate Professor Trinh Hoa Binh from the Institute of Sociology as saying, “While we have yet to recognize prostitution as a profession, we can apply a method to manage sex work as adopted by China and Thailand, which accept prostitution and strictly control it so that it cannot ruin the foundations of social morality…”

He added the government and society should recognize sex work as an unavoidable part of tourism. Although no country publicly recognizes sex tours, some still consider them a source of profit, Associate Professor said.

“While there is no ground to eliminate prostitution, let’s manage it,” he suggested.

Tuoi Tre News - December 20, 2014

Vietnam's sex industry evolves beyond laws

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.

By Thu Hang - Thanh Nien News - December 21, 2014