Sex workers have allegedly been operating more openly since the country shut down its prison camps, but experts are quick to note that poverty is the root cause of the problem.
Tran Thien Thu was delighted when Vietnam authorities scrapped the
policy of sending prostitutes to prison camps a year ago, as the oldest profession represents her sole means to eke out a living in Ho Chi Minh City. She explained:
It's easier to breathe now. I can't earn
enough doing anything else. It is difficult to get a good job because I quit school at fifth grade.
On the street I can earn VND400,000 (US$19) a night serving two customers. I can't get a legal job that pays VND2-3 million a
Meanwhile government officials and experts are still divided as to how to respond to the issue. Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc singled out leaders from HCMC, Nam Dinh and Hai Phong to report on their prostitution
situations, because there have been many emerging problems in those localities.
Last week, HCMC police raided several karaoke lounges in HCMC's Binh Thanh District and found dozens of female employees clad in bikinis seated beside guests. Police
believed that several rooms were being used for sex, but failed to catch anyone red-handed.
A recent report by the HCMC People's Committee claims that many criminals have 'abused' the open regulations -- meaning the elimination of
compulsory prison and the lack of punitive measures against sex acts other than intercourse -- to offer sex services at their places of business.