No one protects Vietnamese sex workers

By VnExpress   September 16, 2016 | 01:52 am PT
No one protects Vietnamese sex workers
Sex workers wait for customers on the street in Hanoi. Photo by Nguyen Le/VnExpress
Sex workers have to deal with regular police raids and persistent fears.

Sex workers, possibly the most vulnerable in Vietnam, have to deal with regular police raids and persistent fear of theft and violence, a new study has found.

As part of the research, the International Labor Organization interviewed male, female and transgender sex workers as well as pimps and local authorities in Vietnam, and strongly suggested that the country do something about the occupational safety and health risks that come with the industry.

Most workers had casual jobs before they chose to enter the sex industry, after considering it a better option.

Out of the 73 workers surveyed, only one reported to having been deceived into selling sex, but many workers had their movements controlled by employers and some had their identity papers held, the study found.

According to the workers, conditions would be better in well-maintained, expensive bars, discotheques, spas, massage parlors and restaurants, while brothels and cheap cafés, restaurants, karaoke bars and parlors are dirty and do not guarantee security and safety.

However, no matter where they work, there is always the threat of violence and police raids, especially for women working on the streets.

A full-time worker usually works ten to 12 hours each day, and women provide sexual services to between six to ten clients on average, and up to 30 per day. Male workers serve between three and ten clients each day, a workload considered “heavy” by many pimps interviewed by the ILO.

Many employers provide condoms but regular use of contraception is low.

These factors do not only expose sex workers to high risks of sexually transmitted diseases and drug use, but many also have stress and mental issues, the study found.

“They do not enjoy their work,” Pham Thi Thanh Huyen, national coordinator for the ILO in Vietnam, said in a statement. “Many were also forced by employers, clients or themselves to drink alcohol, which resulted in permanent stomachaches. Others suffered from trauma due to too much sex or injuries from gang rapes."

Vietnam outlaws sex work, but there seems to be no way to stop the business. Latest figures indicate there are nearly 101,300 sex workers, including 72,000 female sex workers, in Vietnam.

Chang-Hee Lee, director of ILO Vietnam, said in the statement that the government and relevant agencies need to make employers protect the safety and health of their employees.

He also said local health and labor inspectors should be trained on the matter.

Related news:

>Legalize brothels, stop punishing sex workers who solicit: U.K. parliamentary watchdog

>Prostitution in Saigon: sex trade finds a new face

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