Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers if prostitution should be seen as a profession that should be managed - and what the pros and cons of legalisation would be, especially in Viet Nam. Here are some replies we received.
William Ribbing, American, Pensacola, Florida, US
I have to differ with Colonel Ho Sy Tien's suggestion that it would be easier to control prostitution if it was recognised as a profession and ruled by regulations.
The boom in information technology has made shopping from home popular in Viet Nam in recent years. And more than 10 enterprises sell their products directly via television.
While home shopping has become popular with busy consumers, Vietnamese are sometimes disappointed about the quality of the items they purchase from these companies. Many said the quality and uses of the items advertised were exaggerated or deceptive.
Recently, a TV shopping company in HCM City was fined and had goods worth VND9 billion (US$430,000) seized for selling smuggled and poor-quality products. Several other companies were also found selling fake goods.
Do people in your country prefer home shopping to traditional shopping, which requires one to go to markets, stores or shopping malls? And why? What about you?
Have you ever purchased any items sold via television channels in your country or in Viet Nam? Were you satisfied with the company's service and quality of the products?
In your opinion, what should TV vendors do to attract more shoppers?
Please reply by email to: email@example.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, July 5.
Prostitution is illegal in many places due to the stigma of transmitted diseases such as AIDS, gonorrhoea and syphilis. Legalising prostitution would create an extra need for the control of spreading venereal diseases.
Since Vietnamese hospitals and doctors are already over loaded with other problems, besides having a shortage of doctors, this would only make matters worse and further the cause of bribery. Requiring legal prostitutes to submit to monthly medical examinations could also prove financially problematic for some.
Regulations would have to be created that would require additional law enforcement. Prostitutes would have to be registered with local police, which would add to the already overloaded physical and legal burdens of local forces, creating additional opportunities for bribery and corruption.
As a professional organ--isation, prostitution would fall into the category of legalised human degradation. Looking at the problem from the prostitutes' view, they would be spending more money for insurance, health requirements, licensing, taxes and medical examinations, all of which would add to their failure to achieve respectability. You can be sure they would avoid spending any money on the necessary requirements.
Legalising prostitution would only allow men to continue demoralising women. Additionally, those who frequent prostitutes are usually those with a higher income and quite often married men, which increases the failure of families.
Consider what the results are: higher divorce rates, more children being abandoned, families having to suffer the loss of support and income, wives having to suffer indignity due to spousal abuse both physical and psychological.
The problem with legalisation is that it ends up costing more than keeping it illegal, when you add all the expenses of monitoring and control and regulation and policing, etc.
Final answer: Keep it illegal and prosecute violators on both sides via extremely high fines and through publishing the names of violators on local television to create greater public awareness.
Rosylin Loch, Australian, HCM City
Prostitution has been with us from time immemorial. It is rife in Viet Nam as anywhere else and is accepted. It is only those illegally making money from it who want regulations.
Prostitution has always served a financial, social, mental and physical purpose otherwise there would be no participants. Unfortunately, there are people out there who abuse this need for some and exploit the participants for their own financial gain.
There are many unsavoury aspects to this exploitation. It ranges from "pimps" living off the earnings of participants to Government officials accepting bribes to ignore the practice or not enabling legalisation or regulation to protect the participants. Legalisation and regulation would help protect participants, the community health wise and minimise corruption. Unfortunately, if you are a beautiful girl in Viet Nam and you or your family is not financially well off, the temptation to exchange sex for various financial gains is hard to knock back. The worst aspect is the pecking order of the husband first, children second, parents third and the wife or daughter last and sometimes below the maid.
This has resulted in the cultural acceptance of the first-born daughter being sent out into the labour force to earn money for the rest of the family as soon as possible. Sadly for her or any later sister if they happen to be beautiful quite often they are sold for or forced into prostitution as this can be the family's main source of income.
As a school teacher, I have often heard from my pupils about these innocent and ignorant girls physically instructed by their fathers or relatives in what they will be doing when they leave the family home. Sadly, some think this unsavoury action is normal and that is their purpose in life.
Only later do some realise they have been abused by their families, Viet Nam's culture and the Government who fail to offer protection via laws, legislation and regulation.
Kim Yi Soo, Korean, Ha Noi
Most Asian cultures do not accept prostitution due to the shame it brings to those involved and their families. Born in Korea, where oriental culture has strong prejudice on moral wrong-doing, I think legalisation of prostitution does not fit the traditional mould. However, there are some pros.
Firstly, it is a victimless crime. In countries where prostitution is legal, it has been proven to be physically and emotionally safer than where prostitution is illegal. Moreover, legalising prostitution might even reduce crime rates, rapes, and human sex trafficking due to more easily available legal alternatives.
Secondly, the risk of sexually transmitted diseases would be lower. Prostitutes might have better access to sex education and methods of preventing the spread of illnesses. The safety of all parties can be controlled with sex workers required to have regular STD tests and minimising contact with potentially dangerous clients.
Thirdly, it would contribute to lowering the unemployment rate. Prostitutes are often uneducated and have few choices in terms of career.
It is true that prostitution has always existed and would be hard to eradicate completely, but controlling it could also be tough. If legalisation of prostitution is approved, it should be carefully regulated and monitored to ensure efficiency.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
My country is fairly conservative and has simple rules in this area. Certain street corners and areas have streetwalkers, or you can look in the classified section of the newspaper or look under ‘escorts' for a ‘date' on websites and in the Yellow Pages phone book. There is always a massage place. You can take your chances with a drunk girl in a bar, which is obviously the least attractive option.
If Viet Nam legalises prostitution, there will be some positive aspects, but you will open up a completely new set of troubles. Collect tax? How will you enforce it? Will the ‘worker' have to show a menu while handing out customer satisfaction surveys? What if a new class of agent (pimp, papa-san, gangster) starts recruiting on university and high school campuses to find ‘fresh meat?' I shudder to think of all the negative aspects of legalisation.
Every society has a duty to educate its citizens and provide as much opportunity and security as possible. Safe sex education in high school is a must. As an adult you look for love, long term stable friendships, dating, marriage and then children. This is a tried, tested and true formula for the human race.
Legalising prostitution will only serve to bring in more trouble, more confusion and more paperwork. What's next, a union?
Patrick Moran, British, HCM City
I have explained that principle number one of marketing is "Find out what the customers want." This is "the world's oldest profession" because the demand has been absolutely reliable since the beginning of time.
Consequently, it is ridiculous to make the supply side illegal. This merely pushes this hugely profitable business into the hands of gangsters and weakens the application of severe penalties for overpaid brothel owners and pimps, the slave trade, spreading disease and tax evasion.
How does this compare with alternative opportunities we offer to attractive uneducated young ladies from the countryside who often use the proceeds to support elderly parents and siblings?
I have been divorced once in 60 years but most of my friends and relatives can beat that for frequency. In every single case, the husband gave as a significant reason an inadequate sexual appetite on the part of wives, but the reasons for that are not insuperable. I have mentioned that governments strongly discourage, or at the very best, fail to encourage, difficult questions. Discussions of sexuality are a social taboo, even between husbands and wives, so it is not surprising that such an enjoyable activity causes so much unhappiness. — VNS