Last update 11/12/2010 10:04:00 PM (GMT+7)
  

Prostitution: Should Vietnam fight it or recognize it as ‘honest work’?

VietNamNet Bridge - The Government has countless regulations and programs against prostitution, society condemns it, but the oldest profession just continues to adapt to the environment. Is it time to choose a more effective management model? That’s the question posed by Phap Luat HCM City, a newspaper sponsored by the Department of Justice in the southern metropolis, as it began a series of investigative reports. 

 

After the annual Tet holiday, the press reported a police raid on the “love market” on Hanoi’s Nguyen Chi Thanh street that rounded up 17 prostitutes. Though the event was widely reported, in fact it was just another roundup, no different from nightly police actions in many provinces and cities.

According to the Ordinance 178/2004 against prostitution, prostitutes who are arrested the first time will be re-educated at public expense.

It is rarely effective to prosecute prostitutes because evidence is usually insufficient. But, when they are sent back to their hometowns, they just ‘move on,’ to work as prostitutes in other places.

If they are arrested a second or third time, the prostitutes are sent to rehabilitation centres for up to 18 months. Released, most go back to their trade, says Le Van Quy, vice chief of HCM City Bureau for Social Evil Prevention.

Who are the “guests” of prostitutes?

HHL’s wife has suffered from cervical cancer for three years. This man has taken good care of his family, especially his wife. He loves her very much. However, there is one thing that his wife doesn’t know: he sometimes sleeps with prostitutes. “I just pick up a girl and  and pay her off – I’ve no  particular girl,” he says. “I can’t live without sex. But my wife and my family are still my top priority.”

LNT, 46, has been widowed for seven years. He has a child, a high-school student, but no interest in remarriage. Sometimes he goes to a karaoke bar to have sex with a prostitute. Most people see him as an exemplary father.

The stories above show that besides playboys, there are men who see prostitutes to satisfy their natural needs.

Le Truong Giang, deputy director of HCM City Department of Health, has a friend who is a widowed man like Mr. LNT. This man’s friends all know that he sometimes sees a prostitute but they don’t blame him.

“Prostitution is related to real needs in life. There are many people who don’t marry or are widowed but they have the need for sex,” Giang said. “If we fight prostitution, we can only inhibit it, but not stamp it out.”

Prostitutes have plenty of worries

Several months ago, Bui Thu Le, who often seeks clients on HCM City’s Thi Nghe bridge, had a scary experience. A regular client phoned her and she agreed to stay overnight with him at a hotel. When she entered the room, however, there were five other men there. She suspected one of them to be an HIV carrier because he was a drug addict. Panic-stricken, Le tried to escape. She said: “Please wait a moment! I will call two other girls to join us” and ran from the room.  An argument followed; questioned about her quarrel with the men, she was unveiled by the local authorities to be a prostitute and sent to a rehabilitation centre.

Another prostitute named Nguyen Thi Thu had similar experiences. “I’m always worried I’ll be beaten by other prostitutes, be bilked by clients or be infected with HIV,” she said.

“Many clients have odd requests. I always have condoms but many men refuse to use them. I’m ill now, but I don’t dare to go to hospital because I’m worried that I may find I’m infected with HIV. If that’s true, perhaps I’ve transmitted that disease to dozens of men,” Thu said.

A survey of over 200 prostitutes by the Agency for Prevention of Social Evils in 2009 showed that the major reasons they entered the trade were unemployment and poverty.

Authorities admit they can’t stamp out prostitution

During a workshop held in early 2010, a report pointed out that HCM City has nearly sixty streetcorner locations were men can pick up prostitutes.  Of the estimated 5000 streetwalkers, the local authorities have dossiers on about 800.

Le Van Quy, vice chief of the HCM City Police Social Evil Prevention Bureau, said that prostitutes are less likely to ‘clump’ than in the past. It is most difficult to control prostitutes who pose as employees of massage centres and karaoke bars. “Whatever they’re up to, if we raid a building, by the time we get upstairs they’ve got their clothes back on” said Quy.

At a seminar to design new plans and methods to control prostitution, a representative of the Agency for Crimes against Social Order judged that though prostitution is controlled to a certain extent across the nation, it still complicated. Some national or transnational call-girl rings have been set up in collusion with tour guides. Police have detected cases in which singers, models and actresses went to Eastern European countries allegedly to perform but actually to work as prostitutes.

The only rehabilitation centre for prostitutes in HCM City is the Phu Nghia Centre. Centre Director Nguyen Thi My said that fewer girls are sent to the centre in recent years but that doesn’t mean that there are fewer prostitutes – it’s just that the authorities can’t round them up.

When even the authorities admit that they can’t control prostitution, many ask why Vietnam doesn’t instead set aside “red light areas” for prostitutes” 


PV

 
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