PROSTITUTES AND PROSTITUTION IN VIETNAM

PROSTITUTION IN VIETNAM

Although technically illegal, prostitution is widespread in Vietnam. AFP reported: "Hair salons, karaoke bars and massage parlors offering "additional services" are abundant in the political capital Hanoi, as they are in other cities across the country. State employees often celebrate national festivals and success at work with an evening out on the town, which usually involves copious quantities of alcohol, a slap-up feast and an evening in a karaoke bar followed by further "after hours" entertainment. Mini-hotels are the favored place for illicit bedroom entertainment . [Source: Agence France Presse, July 14, 2003 +=+]

According to the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: After the Viet Cong occupation of Saigon, the new government tried to eliminate prostitution by closing brothels and sending prostitutes to work or to so-called reeducation centers. Between 1975 and 1985, 14,304 prostitutes in Ho Chi Minh City were sent to those centers. The Government claimed that prostitution was eradicated in the South by 1985. But as Stephanie Fahey (1998) remarked: "In a country where the Communist Party attempted to eradicate prostitution and pornography, prostitutes are now found in almost every bar, restaurant and hotel whether private or state-owned." According to statistics from the Department of Criminal Police, Ministry of the Interior, in the first six months of 1990, Vietnam had 40,000 prostitutes and 1,000 brothels. By the first six months of 1993, there were 200,000 prostitutes and 2,000 brothels. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

A report prepared by SCF (Save the Children Fund) in 1995 estimated that there were 149 brothels in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Many of the establishments are, officially, bars selling beer to Vietnamese clients. According to one recent unofficial estimate (Khuat Thu Hong 1998), there may be half a million sex workers in all of Vietnam, not including the increasing number of male prostitutes in the southern provinces and the big northern cities. Government Resolutions 53, 87, and 88, passed in 1994 and 1995, strengthen management over cultural activities and monitor the struggle against the so-called social evils, including prostitution, gambling, and drug use. \*/

Although prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, because of economic problems it is again becoming the booming business it was during the Vietnam War. But tourists report that because of corruption, the interpretation of the law is quite broad. Some of the girls who are looking for customers and are talking to tourists are agent provocateurs for corrupt policemen who force the foreigner to pay large sums to "avoid an incident." On the other hand, there are also police actions to clean up streets and districts with known prostitution, as Cooper and Hanson (1998) were told by a madam. \*/

The Bamboo Bar in the Metrople Hotel in Hanoi was run for a while by madame who serviced mostly Communist Party officials. The illegitimate son of one Vietnamese prostitute inherited $35 million when DNA testing showed that his father was Larry Lee Hillbloom, the founder of the DHL courier service, who died in a seaplane crash in May 1995 an left behind an estate of $550 million.

Prostitutes in Vietnam

In late 2002, state media estimated the country had around 37,000 prostitutes though the authorities had official records on only 14,000. Some say the true figure is over 130,000. By one estimate at one time there were over 50,000 prostitutes in Ho Chi Minh City alone. Vietnamese prostitutes operate in bars, cafés, massage parlors, karaokes, hotels and on the streets. Some even pursue potential customers on motorscooters. Those that work at hotels often come knocking on hotel room doors about 10:00pm. Those that work from motorbike, first drive by a potential customers, followed by her pimp who asks the potential client if he is interested.

According to the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Two types of social networks are most common in the sex workers: peer and friend relations. They often work together in groups of two to five at a site, and this site remains fixed for a number of prostitutes for an extended period of time, from several months to a year or two. Many prostitutes are organized in groups for protection, or they may become friends. As a result of these social groupings, newcomers may be bullied by older prostitutes. They often make friends with a man who is referred to as their "boyfriend" (bo ruot). He may be a familiar client or a man who lives with the prostitute in a hired room and can protect her during work. Prostitutes have sexual relations with clients, boyfriends, and husbands. The average number of sexual contacts of the ten prostitutes interviewed by Bao, Long, and Taylor (1998) was twenty-three per month, some having forty or fifty. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

The reasons for women to become sex workers remain the same as during the Vietnam War and in other developing countries where there are few opportunities in rural areas and low wages in the jobs open for uneducated girls. Poverty is not the sole reason pushing women into prostitution. Family conflicts and their feeling of hopelessness about their husbands or boyfriends are also important reasons. The women interviewed by Cooper and Hanson (1998) stated that they were much better off now than in their villages. \*/

HIV/AIDS infections are rising fast among drug users and sex workers. Around 40 percent of an estimated 300,000 HIV/AIDS cases are sex workers and those who combine drug use and the sex trade. In 2007, Xinhua reported: "Surveys in some cities and provinces of Vietnam show that 13 percent of prostitutes are aged under 18, according to local newspaper Youth. Some 42.4 percent of prostitutes are in the age bracket of 18-25, the newspaper quoted a report presented by Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Health Trinh Quan Huan. [Source: Associated Press, September 6, 2002]

Prostitution in Vietnam in the Pre-Colonial Era

Jacobus X. (1898) reported that prostitution was very common during the nineteenth century. He distinguished between the Annamite "Bamboo," the Chinese brothel, and the "Flower Boats," the Annamite "Daylight Whore" and the Annamite "Mistress of the European." These girls were either sold by their poor parents or even kidnapped by professional girl traders. It seems that the Annamite "Bamboo" was the brothel for the natives and the lower social layers of the French colonials. The prostitutes were Vietnamese girls who had to wait for customers in bamboo huts, hence the name. The infection rate with STDs was high, and the standard of hygiene quite low. Jacobus X. (1898) mentioned black lacquered teeth (a Chinese fashion) and hairless pubes as ethnic peculiarities. The girls had to sell themselves for very little money, and most of the money went to the pimp. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

He also described the style of living of Chinese prostitutes, who first came from Singapore. They resided in big houses and waited on the verandas for clients. An elder women acted as "mama." On the first floor were a lot of Chinese beds with dark-colored mosquito curtains to conceal the couples. For waiting opium-smokers, there would be a pipe. Although few of the girls smoked, they were instructed in preparing the pipes. The owners of the brothels and flower boats, which are houseboats in the channels, worked without license, and were free to carry on their trade. However, they had to put up with the extortion of the Mandarins. Under the most trivial presumption of harboring criminals, their inhabitants might be mercilessly driven out. Interestingly, the Chinese prostitutes had a chance to become a concubine of a man of reputation, and then rise to a more honored position. The houses of prostitution of Cholon were almost exclusively reserved for the Chinese and resembled the "society houses" in Europe. They were quite luxurious, with salons, divans, sofas, mirrors, and pictures. \*/

Besides these brothels, there also existed the so-called "Daylight Whore" and the system of the mistress. Apparently, the first was formerly in the bamboo but left because of her age. She also had a souteneur, who protected her from the police officers. They lingered in the streets and around restaurants, waiting to contact some possible client. After the initial contact was made, they followed the client to his house, ready to suggest sodomy and the kneeling instead of the horizontal position. \*/

The mistress of the European were often bought directly from the parents "for some twenty piasters," a young girl of 15 or 16, selected from those whose fate it would ultimately be to be sent to the "bamboo." It was quite common, though, to take the mistress of some friend or colleague who was leaving the colony, and thus get a woman "who has had some training, requires no outfit, and understands a little French." To prevent the mistress from "going wrong," Jacobus X. (1898) suggested setting his own Annamite boy over her as bodyguard. \*/

Official French Policy Towards Prostitution

According to Troung (1990) who quoted the report of the Commission of Enquiry of the League of Nations (1933), French colonial policy adhered to the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic of 1910, but did not accede to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children of 1921. The general policy pursued by the French government in Indochina was regulation, i.e., control through registration and supervision of brothels and women who were already prostitutes, and safeguarding women and girls from being induced by force or deceit into prostitution. The control of prostitution was entrusted to municipal and provincial authorities. The age of consent for registered prostitution was established at 18 years for Asians and 21 years for Europeans. The police registered a prostitute if she was found soliciting in the streets or if a person complained of having been "contaminated" by her. In 1926, about 24 licensed brothels paid taxes every month to the Hanoi city administration in addition to the hotels and lodging houses that secretly harbored prostitution. In 1935, H. Virgitti, mayor of Hanoi, disclosed that there were about 4,000 people working in the sex industry, not including geishas and dancers (Khuat Thu Hong 1998). [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

It is interesting to note that traffic in women was considered by the French colonial administration a problem solely connected with Asian traditions and customs. The 1929 report of the police prosecutor at the Court of Appeal in Saigon cited the following example of this quite hypocritical attitude towards the Vietnamese and the belief in the colonial authorities’ own superiority: It may be that the supervision exercised, the severe sentences by the courts and the administrative measures taken against foreign Asiatics sentenced for offences of this nature, have warned delinquent people against the consequences of this shameful commerce; it may be that the mental attitude modified through French influence and through contact with our civilization, so respectful of the rights of women and children, has brought about an almost complete change of the native customs (Commission of Enquiry of the League of Nations, 1933:218). \*/

The French believed that licensed brothels were a far more humane and civilized treatment of prostitutes who were assumed to have entered the profession deliberately, even though the conditions were quite unbearable because of extreme exploitation. Medical officers sometimes sent girls to hospital not because of venereal diseases, but because they were in a state of "very great exhaustion, having been obliged by the keepers of the house to receive an excessive number of customers" (Commission of Enquiry of the League of Nations, 1933:217). \*/

As in other colonies, Vietnam had a double standard. The few white prostitutes possessed certain rights; they could, for example, institute legal procedures against souteneurs of French nationality, and the men were invariably punished and expelled (Commission of Enquiry of the League of Nations (1933:215-217). Because of the ideas of the Social Purity movement, prostitution was regarded as evil. Because the aim was not to analyze the social and economic reasons for prostitution, prostitutes became criminalized, in contrast to their customers. The French also used Bordels Mobile de Campagne, huge trailer trucks converted into mobile field brothels with ten women to each truck. The Bordels Mobile traveled to every fighting front. When on leave in Hanoi or Saigon, the French soldiers preferred non-military-organized establishments. \*/

Prostitution in the Vietnam War

According to Khuat Thu Hong (1998), archive materials indicate that in 1954 in Hanoi alone, there were around 12,000 professional prostitutes working in 45 brothels and 55 cabaret houses of whom over 6,000 were licensed. After 1954, in northern Vietnam, prostitution was theoretically eliminated. Article 202 of the Criminal Code states that any sheltering, enticement, or inducement of prostitutes is an illegal act, and punishment will vary by degree of violation. Yet, every year, about 300 to 400 persons were discovered working in this trade. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

Between 1959 and 1962, organized prostitution in the South was almost totally crushed by Madame Nhu, who closed down every brothel and heavily fined the owners. This changed after the Ngo Dinh Diem regime was overthrown in 1963. During the late 1960s, about thirty-two establishments in Saigon were houses of prostitution, ranging from modest apartments to elegant three-story establishments. A good deal of the sex business was in the hands of the Vietnamese underworld, like the "Yellow Pang Society." In the French as well as in the American period, the "Flower Boats" or sampans plied their trade. They were frequently family operations, with the daughter(s) working as prostitute(s) while the brothers pimped on dry land. Some of the larger junks, however, were professionally run, often by the Saigon underworld. Prior to 1975, statistics from the Ministry of Society of the Saigon government reported about 200,000 professional prostitutes. In Saigon alone in 1968, there were about 10,000 professional prostitutes. By 1974, the figure had reached 100,000. \*/

During the Vietnam War, one million soldiers from the United States were stationed throughout Southeast Asia. Most of these host countries signed agreements to provide their services as "Rest and Recreation" centers for United States military and aid personnel. Their presence contributed to the proliferation of commercial sexual intercourse. Although the U.S. Army was not officially involved in providing sex workers to cover itself against congressional reaction at home, it is known that some of the brothels kept by the Vietnamese Government and the ARVIN (Army of Vietnam) were exclusively reserved for GIs. The first military brothel opened in 1966 in Pleiku in the central highlands. \*/

According to Marnais (1967), it was to be the model for other "recreation centers," including several within the Saigon area: The Pleiku brothel has twenty rooms, whitewashed and pleasantly furnished. The girls are all carefully selected on the basis of good looks, personality and knowledge of English. (U.S. Army Intelligence also runs a security check on each girl to make sure she is not a Viet Cong agent out to pick up useful information from her trusting bedmates.) The girls are closely supervised by a matron under contract to the Pleiku Administrative Council. An American GI pays 300 piastres ($2.50) for a ticket, allowing him up to three hours with any given girl. (Twosomes and other exotic sexual ménages are out.) Between 100 and 300 GIs visit the house each day, passing through a sandbagged guard post where they are required to show their ticket and have it stamped by a Vietnamese soldier. Fifteen percent of the girl’s earnings are deducted to pay for expenses at the center, but a hard-working and a popular prostitute can earn between 8000 to 15,000 piastres ($66 to $125) a month, a good salary in today’s Vietnam. The main reason for the U.S. Army to provide those establishments was the alarmingly high venereal disease rate among U.S. enlisted men. However, most of the soldiers preferred to look for prostitutes themselves in bars catering to GIs. \*/

"A prostitute earned as much as $180 per month. The average government civil servant earned roughly $30 a month, and even cabinet ministers and Assembly members had fixed salaries of $120. A special form of prostitution was the "mistress," i.e., a paid steady girlfriend. GIs considered this a "safer" alternative to the brothels and bar girls. There existed rumors about an incurable strain of syphilis, called "Black Clap," and Viet Cong girls who were able to put razor blades into their vaginas to castrate or even kill clients (Gulzow & Mitchell 1980). The latter rumor is without doubt a reflection of the ability of some trained girls to use their vaginas to smoke cigarettes, shoot arrows, or to put razor blades or other sharp materials in them without getting hurt. \*/

While under French rule, marriages of French soldiers and Vietnamese women were prohibited. American soldiers, on the other hand, could marry. A U.S. Army study of sixty-four GIs who had filed applications to marry Vietnamese girls between June 1964 and November 1966 concluded that a high proportion of GIs who married Vietnamese women were divorced, sexually inhibited, fearful of American women, or disenchanted with some aspects of American life (Marnais 1967). \*/

Clients and Health Care for Prostitutes

According to the Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Clients of sex workers are called Khach lang choi in Vietnamese. According to the study by Bao, Long, and Taylor (1998), all social classes, with the exception of farmers, can be found among them: workers, truck drivers, students, engineers, married, and unmarried men. The clients often start off going to a beer hug bar or restaurant to drink beer where they end up negotiating sex with one of the beer hug girls. Or they drink beer or alcohol first at one place and then go to another place to seek sex. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

As in other developing countries, sex tourism is a growing business. Although reliable statistics are not available, such indicators as Web sites with advice for international tourists show a tremendous increase of travelers interested in sex, especially because Vietnam wrongly has the reputation of being "safer" with regard to STDs and AIDS than other countries in Southeast Asia. Because by law, Vietnamese citizens are prohibited from going into a hotel room of a tourist unless they are registered guests, prostitutes and customers meet at small Vietnamese-owned mini-hotels that cater to the locals and tolerate prostitution. \*/

A survey conducted in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in 1997 showed that 70 percent to 80 percent of the customers of bars and karaoke parlors suspected of offering prostitution were civil servants. [Source: Associated Press, September 6, 2002]

Since the early 1990s, the New Zealand Prostitutes Collective has worked together with the Save the Children Fund in providing peer-training workshops for sex workers. According to the SCF official report of 1995: Peer educators and peer counselors serve as credible and impactful disseminators of preventive/protective knowledge and behavior skills, and as positively reinforcing role models and change agents in the referent target populations (including sex workers). On the street, an outreach worker reported to Cooper and Hanson (1998) that there is at the start always some mistrust when they try to bring women for an STD checkup, but with developing relationships, the women are glad that someone looks after them. \*/

Hanoi Manage Prostitutes Online While Prostitutes Work on Their English

In 2005, Hanoi began organizing data on prostitutes on interconnected computers. Xinhuanet reported: " When prostitutes are arrested, they have to fill in a form, which, along with their most recent photos, will be stored in computer networks accessible to all relevant agencies, Nguyen Vi Hung, head of the Hanoi Anti-Social Evil Bureau, said. Frequent sex sellers are supposed to attend rehabilitation centers, the official added. [Source: Xinhuanet, October 7, 2005 /|\]

"The city's initiative aims at better managing prostitutes, especially those who are addicted to drugs. With the computerized records, the agencies will find it much easier to prove the "operation frequency" of prostitutes. "When their files are being recorded, prostitutes are afraid of relapsing into crime and being arrested for the second time," Hung said. Sending prostitutes to rehabilitation centers is good, since a number of them are addicted to drugs and infected with HIV," he stated. Some experts at Vietnam's Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs suggested that the ministry should implement Hanoi's initiative nationwide. The country currently has file records on about 13,000 prostitutes, including around 3,000 in Hanoi. /|\

In April 2003, Reuters reported: " Vietnamese prostitutes trying to lure customers in the resort town of China Beach have been taking English classes to improve their chances, state-run media has said. At least three English classes have been opened unofficially in the city, with teachers who provide instruction on sentences like: 'One hundred dollars', 'I want to be your wife' and 'Give me your watch', the Nguoi Lao Dong (Laborer) newspaper reported. Officials in the town, a former playground for American soldiers during the Vietnam War, could not be reached for comment. The paper said one unidentified teacher was paid $52 a month by her students. A woman from one of the classes said many in her profession had long wanted to study English. "Many times we would have a client, a foreigner, but we were so embarrassed as we did not know what to say to lure him," the newspaper quoted her as saying. Prostitution is illegal in communist Vietnam which has recently renewed crackdowns, including stronger penalties for state employees caught breaking the law. [Source: Reuters, April 19, 2003]

Sexual Slavery and Forced Prostitution in Vietnam

According to Article 115 of the Penal Code, any person who buys and sells women shall be sentenced to imprisonment from 5 to 7 years. Any person who engages in this kind of behavior with an organization, takes the woman abroad, buys or sells many women, or relapses into this crime shall be sentenced to 5 to 20 years in prison. [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality, 2.hu-berlin.de/sexology \*/ ]

According to news in the South China Morning Post (July 29, 1999), domestic sexual slavery is increasing, with an estimated 20 percent of Vietnam’s commercial sex workers held in brothels against their will. In Vietnam, women can be sold to brothels for two million dong (HK$1,120), but according to the Ministry of Labor, brothels in Taiwan and China pay up to US$7,000 (HK$54,250) for young Vietnamese women. Therefore, it is no wonder that Vietnam is becoming an important source of women destined for sexual slavery in Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. Many victims are lured into marriages with foreigners and migrate with their new husbands before being sold to brothels. \*/

On Vietnamese girls forced to work in the sex industry abroad, Viet Chien wrote in Thanh Nien: "Vietnamese police are to join Czech authorities to bring home 20 girls lured into the sex trade with offers of a free trip abroad, confirmed police today. Interpol Vietnam revealed the 20 girls are among 82 girls in total forced to work as prostitutes abroad. The 82 girls include 50 who were sexually abused in the Czech Republic, 20 other Vietnamese young women in Moscow, and 12 in Macao. Two suspects alleged to have tricked the girls into traveling to Europe were detained by police this week. They include Nguyen Huu Ngan living in northern Nghe An province and Nguyen Manh Hung in Hanoi. [Source: Viet Chien, Thanh Nien, November 8, 2005 ++]

"Some of those who recruited the innocent women for the trafficking rings in Eastern Europe were once models in Vietnam, said police, who added, all were enticed to go abroad on free tours, foreign studies, and guest labor programs. On a relevant note, the three girls who were freed this week from a brothel in Russia returned home safely at 1:30am today under cooperation between policemen in Vietnam and Russia. ++

Bui Ngoc Long wrote in Thanh Nien, "Vietnamese and Laos police recently smashed a ring that cajoled Vietnamese girls into entering the sex trade in Laos, rescuing 2, sending 11 back from a brothel in Laos, and arresting two others. Soldiers in central Quang Tri province Monday said late last month, they caught two suspicious young girls about to leave the province for Laos. From this, they questioned Tong Hoang Mai, who was waiting for the two nearby. [Source: By Bui Ngoc Long, Thanh Nien, May 14, 2007 ^-^]

"Mai admitted she worked for Chu Tuan Hoa, 30 a Vietnamese owner of a massage parlor in Pakse, Champassak province in Laos. She said she was initially a victim enticed by Hoa to visit Lao for fun but on arriving, Hoa took her passport and other documents and forced her to become a prostitute. On information from the Vietnam Consulate General in Pakse, Laos police raided Hoa’s massage palace, and found 11 Vietnamese girls there in the sex trade. They were promptly returned home. Hoa and his close aide Hoang Dinh Toan were arrested. Hoa said he paid Toan 500,000 kips (US$52) for each girl sent by him and would pay 10,000 kips to each girl after sex with customers. They usually approached girls in Ho Chi Minh City and Long An province in the south; Thua Thien Hue and Quang Tri provinces in the central region." ^-^

Vietnam Cracks Down on Sex Trade

Prostitution is illegal but the penalties are not severe. When prostitutes are caught authorities generally only fine them 50,000 Vietnamese dong (about $3.20) and then release them. Often when they are detained they are released after authorities fail to prove that they engage in prostitution frequently. Prostitutes who are drug addicts have to attend rehabilitation centers for one year or three to four years in case of relapse into prostitution. Many karaoke bars, barber shops, massage parlours and hotels that are fronts for brothels are able to ply their trade after paying off local officials and police.

In 2003, the government passed legislation imposing fines on civil servants and members of the police and military who were found to be using their authority to "protect prostitution." But these efforts will be inadequate as long as Vietnam continues to be an authoritarian state, argues Vo Van Ai, president of Action for Democracy in Vietnam. "It is impossible to change the situation of women in Vietnam without political reform," he said. [Source: Bojana Stoparic, Women's e-news, February 15, 2007]

In December 2004, Reuters reported: "Vietnam has banned hotels, restaurants, massage parlours and Internet cafes from employing people under the age of 18 as it moves to crack down on widespread prostitution, state media reported. The ruling will be effective from next year and establishments with workers under 18 would have to fire them within 30 days, the Tien Phong (Pioneer) newspaper said. A week before the ban, police raided an international hotel in Hanoi and detained 71 young women, many of whom were university students, for sexual involvement with foreign tourists.[Source: Reuters, December 14, 2004]

Vietnam to Punish Civil Service Clients of Prostitutes

In July 2003, AFP reported: "Under the new decree, the names of all civil servants, military and police personnel found to have frequented the services of a lady of the night will be passed on to their superiors for punishment. In a country with 1.3 million state employees, civil servants account for 60 percent of prostitutes' customers, according to official figures. [Source: Agence France Presse, July 14, 2003 +=+]

"It is the first official decree on this matter and it is aimed at people who pay for sexual services and work in the public sector," said Vu Ngoc Thuy of the National Committee for the Progress of Women. Those caught in the uncompromising act will face fines of between US$15 and US$250 and be barred from promotion for a given period. Repeat offenders risk suspension. Previously, state employees were fined a token amount of money and given a "warning" in the name of "safeguarding cultural traditions and maintaining social order." +=+

Under previous regulations, prostitutes' clients were only required to pay administrative fines of up to 500,000 dong ($33) while prostitutes themselves could be sent to rehabilitation centers for up to a year. "In a forerunner of the new decree, authorities in the southern province of Can Tho published in July last year in the state-controlled press a list of 20 state employees who frequented houses of pleasure. Last month's vote on the new legislation by the National Assembly, Vietnam's parliament, triggered much debate, in particular on the disclosure of the names of the culprits. +=+

"Perhaps aware that they themselves could fall foul of the law, deputies also discussed the dilemma of combating this "social evil" while protecting the dignity of state employees and the state of their marital relations. After lengthy discussions, they eventually agreed that the names of offenders should not be passed on to their families, only to their bosses. In line with the communist tradition of pinning dates and statistics on everything, the government has earmarked 2005 as the target date by which the phenomenon of state employees engaging the services of prostitutes will be brought under control. +=+

"But their objective is likely to be difficult to achieve given that prostitution is a long-established part of the culture in Vietnam."The purchase of the sexual services by public sector employees is rather widespread," said Nguyen Thi Hue from the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, who is leading the anti-prostitution drive. "It will prove very difficult to know the names, addresses and the exact places of work of the civil servants affected by these sanctions because they will provide false information or say they have forgotten their papers." Hue also admitted that the annual budget of US$1.5 million for implementing the legislation was "very insufficient." +=+

"Nguyen Ngoc Lan, manager of a Hanoi mini-hotel -- the favored place for illicit bedroom entertainment -- is sceptical that the decree will curtail the trade. "The benefits brought by the sex industry are too important," she said. "What's more you cannot settle personal matters with administrative measures." +=+

Vietnamese Police Break up Virgin-Sale Network to Taiwan

In December 2003, AFP reported: "Viet police said they had made 25 arrests and broken up a network that sold virgins to Taiwan or to expatriates living in Vietnam. The arrests were made after a raid on a hotel in the southern business capital of Ho Chi Minh City, during which two 19-year-old women, both virgins, were caught in bed with two Taiwanese men. [Source: Agence France Presse, December 5, 2003 >+<]

"The women were arrested, and the Taiwanese nationals were given a warning. A raid was then carried out on the house of a married couple, the ringleaders of the network which specialised in persuading women to sell their virginity for 200 dollars, a police spokesman said. Police said the couple confessed that they had sold dozens of women, most of them virgins, to Taiwan to work as prostitutes since the network began operating at the start of the year. Four pimps and 17 women aged between 16 and 19, who were working as prostitutes for the network, were also detained on Wednesday, police said. Along with the two women caught in bed with the Taiwanese men, the 17 sex workers were sent to detention centers set up to "reform" prostitutes. The pimps and the two ringleaders remain in police custody, police said. >+<]

In March 2003, Sapa-DPA reported: " Police in southern Vietnam have arrested three women and one man charged with running a prostitution ring that specialised in offering virgins and sending sex workers to Taiwan, a police official said on Monday. The bust stemmed from a raid on a hotel in Ho Chi Minh on March 12, which found four prostitutes with four clients, said the police officer. The four sex workers led police to arrest Tran Huu Mai, Nguyen Thi Hong, Nguyen Thi Nam and Tran Ngoc Duc on charges of organizing prostitution, the police officer said. Nam toured the rural provinces surrounding Ho Chi Minh, and promised to find Taiwanese husbands for the young women she recruited. [Source: Sapa-DPA, March 17, 2003 /+/]

"Mai and Hong kept the women in two apartments in the southern city and organized clients. Duc worked at a hotel and arranged the liaisons between the women and customers. When the girls that Nam recruited were brought to the southern business capital, they were forced to work as prostitutes to pay for their passage to Taiwan, the investigating police officer said. The madams charged clients about $32 (about R256) per night. If the girls were virgins, the madams prostituted the young women for about $500 (about R4 000) per night, the police officer said. The sex workers had to pay the madams 50 percent of their earnings. Their customers included foreigners and wealthy Vietnamese, and dozens of women had already been trafficked to Taiwan by the gang, the police officer said. /+/

"When the sex workers saved up enough for the airfare they were taken to Taiwan on tourist visas and forced to work as prostitutes there. When their visa expired after six months, the brothel owners told police to arrest and expel them from the island in order to avoid paying the women, the police officer reported. One of the prostitutes arrested on March 12 was deported from Taiwan and had arrived in Ho Chi Minh on March 8 without a cent to her name. She was forced to come back to the ring and ask for work, said the police officer. Under Vietnamese law, if convicted, the defendants will face between five and 20 years in prison. /+/

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

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