Prostitution has been one of the social evils that exists in every society. The roots of the evil may vary and there have been no efficient solution to eradicate prostitution, even in the most barbaric tyrannies. So a policy dealing with the evil to keep it under control is an indication of the rulers' capability of ruling a nation.
After April 30, 1975, the Communist regime ruling the unified Vietnam has vowed many times that it would abolish all social evils in South Vietnam, especially prostitution, which they laid blame on the U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam government. Communist propaganda claimed that under the Nguyen Van Thieu regime, millions of South Vietnamese women were making their living as hookers.
In 1997, Hanoi admitted for the first time that prostitution had reached the most critical scale. State-controlled newspapers reported that young hookers and street-walkers were on the increase in number and became more defiant to the society. Although Hanoi has enacted several decrees and resolutions to deal with the problem and launched campaigns to get rid of the evil, the results proved that all such efforts have failed. Every Vietnamese could see more and more prostitutes all over Vietnam. They are walking the dark streets, accosting customers in city parks, offering the service in bordellos of all sizes camouflaged as coffee shops, restaurants, massage parlors, even as barbershops. Organized rings of hookers have their work at hotels and private homes.
According to statistics provided by Hanoi authorities, there are about 38,000 harlots all over Vietnam in 2000. The true number could be many times higher.
In South Vietnam when the strength of American forces was highest with more than 550,000 soldiers, their presence boosted the harlotry to about many thousands mostly in Saigon, Bien Hoa, Cam Ranh, Qui Nhon, Danang and towns near American smaller base camps. Most of them were working in bars and night clubs. But before and after the American came fighting in Vietnam, professional and part-time prostitutes were estimated at some thousands, a 60 percent fewer than in war time. Vietnamese population in 2000 doubled that in 1970.
Last month, many newspapers - particularly Tuoi Tre (Youth), Thanh Nien (Young Men) in Vietnam reported on a raid at an organized call girl ring that serves the high society in Saigon and Hanoi. The report revealed the alarming pervasion of prostitution. According to the reports, most of call girls in the ring - and possibly in other rings as well - are fashion models and college students. This situation has never existed in Vietnam before , even when Vietnam was under the French colonialist regime which legalized the "red-light" districts. The position of a BA graduate in the Vietnam society used to be rather high on the scale of dignity.
A girl in the ring is paid US$100 each time spent with a customer, US$500 for a full day, and maybe one grand if going for a trip with a customer for a few days.
According to Thanh Nien and Tuoi Tre magazines, on October 30, 2001, a task force of the Public Security Department launched a raid at three hotels in Saigon and Vung Tau, cracking down on one of the rings of call girls run by "the Madam" Huynh Thi Ngoc Quynh, 35 years old. She is an elegant woman with Bachelor degree in English literature, having good relations and connections with numerous personages in the Communist regime. She operates the business by mobile phones and a list of many scores of courtesans.
Arrested at the same time with Ngoc-Quynh are call girls such as Van Anh, Linh and My. Van Anh, a pretty model, is a full time call girl, whereas Linh and My are students of the School of Aeronautics.
In smaller cities, sex industry is growing in similar rate. In Can Tho for example, there are 62 beer shops, 60 coffee shops, 160 karaoke houses, more than 100 hotels and restaurants served by 2,200 employees and about 1,000-plus call girls. State-controlled newspapers reported that prostitutes here are from 16 to 17 years old. They are sacked at 18, the age considered old in the prostitution market while younger replacements are always available.
In other towns in North and South Vietnam, the sex trade has been in full bloom with the same pattern. Concealed behind signboards as coffee shops, massage parlors, the sex business at smaller scale can be found almost everywhere, not excluding areas near by universities, as often alleged by many local newspapers. Since 2000, prostitution has spread far to the countryside, at sites where there may be great demands. Organized prostitution in the countryside occurs for the first time in Vietnam history.
The prostitution devil is reaching its hands at the wider range to the poor young from rural villages. In the last few years, thousands of girls 13 years and older have prostituted themselves in whore houses in Vietnam. Other thousands have been sold by their parents to human smugglers who brought them to work as sex slaves in Cambodia and Thailand, even in China.
In the newest account on the same aspect published in Nguoi Lao Dong (Labor) last month, male prostitution is growing fast as well. Gigolos are seen accosting prospective customers in poorly lighted parks in major cities. They may go on call or by previous appointment. Their customers include middle-aged ladies in the so-called "red bourgeoisie" or "neo-high-society," the red upstarts who spent the flower of their youth in poverty. Now with ill-gotten riches, they would enjoy life with everything they have dreamed of to make up for the wretched days when they were young.
The uncontrolled army of prostitutes is much more dangerous as carriers of HIV/AIDS. In the last 10 years, the number of patients with HIV positive has increased to many tens of thousands. It is the deadliest threat to future generations. But Communist leaders appear to be at a loss for effective solutions.
Prostitution is found in any imaginable form under the Communist regime. More contrivances for better brothel business are realized, such as petting coffee shop, necking beer hut, sex bathing at beach, even the "flashlight coffee" where a customer must have a flashlight to move around in dark makeshift bedrooms in backyard huts.
In short, the Communist regime has indirectly bolstered up prostitution. Though many measures to fight prostitution have been applied by the Communist regime in the last 10 years, the evil has become so serious that it will survive all anti-prostitution campaigns if no harsher crackdown is to be conducted.
There are many problems that aggravate the situation, and the hardest of them to be resolved derives from the party and its government themselves. Almost all prostitute houses are under protection of some ranking members of the local governments, especially the Public Security cadres, one way or another. Even some state-owned hotels are running the business that collects considerable revenues for the party budget. How could the top leaders fight social evils with might and main, particularly prostitution and its associated evil, the corruption, when those who cover the evil practices are their confident subordinates.
In April 2000, in an interview with a reporter of Lao Dong (Labor), Ms. Nguyen Thi Hue, chief of the Department for Fighting Social Evils confirmed that 70 percent of the bordello frequenters were party and government officials and cadres. She also said that all solutions had failed to attain any success.
There are several reasons for the widespread social vices. The Communist leaders are trying to lay the blame on the market economy reform, but they should have laid it on themselves.
First of all it must be the grave decline of social moral standards, a direct consequence of the general and moral education under the Communist regime.
The next is poverty, especially the extremely wide gap between the rich and the poor that makes farmers its primary victims. Communist authorities admit that about three thousand college graduates are unemployed. With bachelor degree, they have to accept jobs that do not require education higher than fifth grade.
However, the most important reason is the low morale of members of the law enforcement agencies and the corrupt government from top to bottom levels.
In reality, the Communist Party and its government will never be able to successfully deal with such matters because the source of power that motivates social evils comes from the very Communist ideal and actions.