Former chairman of the National Committee to Prevent and Fight AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution, Chung A, tells Khoa hoc & Doi song (Science and Life) that managing the ‘oldest profession' is a complicated task.
After a highly publicised prostitution ring bust, people have suggested that the publication of the clients' names would shame or scare others who pay for sex and thus reduce prostitution. What are your thoughts?
I'm not convinced by the argument that publicising names of people who pay for sex will reduce prostitution. Prostitution is an issue related to a fundamental human need. It's hard to prevent people, particularly single men, from buying sex to satisfy that need. Some people even believe that having sex with virgin girls helps clear bad luck.
The ordinance on Prostitution Prevention and Control set up monetary penalties for State employees and employees of the Armed Forces found to be involved in prostitution. Their behavior will also be reported to their managers. However, as far as I know, few cases have actually been reported to offices.
When the names of people who pay for sex are publicised in the media, their families are broken. I think this does more harm than good.
What are your thoughts about what has been done to fight prostitution in Viet Nam?
As mentioned in its name, the National Committee to Prevent and Fight AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution has three major tasks. The fight against prostitution poses the most severe problem but little has been achieved.
The first reason is that prostitution is a self-decided process in which sex workers earn money and buyers have their needs satisfied.
Secondly, current laws and regulations have failed to keep pace with the development of the industry. There are fines but they are not strict or big enough to deter.
Thirdly, it's hard to manage prostitution when there is a lack of co-operation between sectors and agencies.
Fourthly, it's not hard to find prostitution because, to some extent, it's a kind of goods-for-sale. The problem is that it is usually ignored or protected.
Do you think prostitution is a crime?
It depends, it's a personal view. I feel pity for both sex buyers and sex workers. Don't judge them. Human trafficking and sexual abuse are crimes that need to be eradicated and are often corollaries of prostitution.
What is the biggest hurdle to preventing and fighting prostitution?
It's the law and law enforcement. Prostitution should be seen as a social phenomenon, though one that is against norms. We have had sanctions, fines and punishment imposed on people involved in prostitution, but that's not strong enough. We should not approach the issue by imposing fines and cracking down individual "hot spots" or prostitution rings.
We need to review how we grant licences to businesses where prostitution is easy to arise. We also need to raise awareness of the issue and leadership at each level should be responsible. We should integrate the fight against prostitution with poverty reduction programmes. — VNS