SCDI Center for Community Development Initiatives




People living with HIV/AIDS

Sex work in Vietnam – Situation and Recommendations

Sept. 21, 2018

In 27th – 28th October 2014, SCDI co-organized a conference on Sex work in Vietnam, Situation and Recommendations, with the Advisory Group to the Chairperson of the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution.

There were more than 50 participants from the Advisory Group to the Chairperson of the National Committee on AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution; Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs; Ministry of Public Security; Criminal Department; Social Affairs Committee; AIDS Control Centre; sub-Department for Social Vices Prevention; National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology; Institute of Public Opinion Research; UNFPA. Plan, FHI, ISDS, Light, ILO, CARE; Vietnam Network of Sex workers and Vietnam Network of MSM-TG etc

There were 7 sessions with 4 main topics from analyzing international and national experiences on sex work situation and management, and presenting new approaches towards managing and helping sex workers to access to livelihood, harm reduction and alternative employment programs. The 4 topics included:

  • The nature of sex work and its current situation in the world: Sex work is still a social issue and each country may have different management model for it. There are 3 group of prostitution policies: illegal, legal and limited legality. Limited legality to control and decriminalization of sex work like in the case of Singapore with “silence condonation of sex work” but “closely control of related crimes“, which can be seen as an approach for discussion.
  • Situation of sex work in Vietnam: Sex work has existed from long ago, is complicated and increasing. There are many disguised activities, often involving advanced technology and international elements. The consequences are hard to control and disturb of public order. There is a need to understand the root cause of sex work, more research on sex workers, their clients and prostitution rings. One opinion is that we need to look at both “positive perspectives” and consequences of sex work as basis when developing the policies. 
  • Current policies in Vietnam: The general opinion about sex work is that it is social evil that needs to be eliminated. Yet, there are many overlapping and unclear documents, focusing on policies related to criminals. We need policies that can help and support sex workers. Improving the information system, developing community-based support model for sex workers, improving health care and access to harm reduction of sex workers, facilitating alternative employments.
  • Recommendations: Review the general opinion of seeing sex work as social evil, illegal and controlling methods. Review the shortcomings of the current legal system; amend and complete the Ordinance on sex work in 2003. Improve the information system, reduce stigma. Increase harm reduction and integration interventions. Conduct research related to sex work.

Dr Nguyen Ngoc Thang, Program Manager, Health and Social of CARE said "It is very interesting that although we have different views about sex work, one thing that we all agreeded - it is important to consider and protect the dignity and rights of sex workers."


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