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Cablegate: New Efforts to Combat Prostitution in Vietnam

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary. A new ordinance should strengthen efforts
aimed at combating prostitution in Vietnam and its related
effects. The most striking point of the new ordinance is
its inclusion of purchasers of sex, specifically focusing on
government officials, thus expanding prohibited acts to
include demand-side offenders. Doubts remain about its
practical application, however. End Summary.

2. (U) On March 17, the National Assembly Standing
Committee (NASC) passed a new Ordinance on Prostitution
Prevention and Combat, which came into effect July 1.
According to Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social
Affairs (MOLISA) official Nguyen Thi Hue, previous laws and
regulations had been insufficient, overlapping, or even
conflicting. This new ordinance aims at rectifying gaps in
the Criminal Code and at unifying overall policy, with an
emphasis on prevention and education.


3. (U) The ordinance's Article 4 provides a broad listing
that "strictly prohibits buying and selling sex, harboring
or organizing prostitution activities, forcing, brokering,
or protecting prostitution, abusing the service business for
prostitution activities, as well as other acts related to
prostitution activities as prescribed by law." "Buying" is
the new element here; previous legislation failed to
designate purchasing sex as an offense. The ordinance
defines "sex" as "sexual intercourse."

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4. (U) Although the ordinance breaks no new ground on
criminal liability, it does define cases that entail
administrative penalties. Article 22 provides that "sex
buyers shall, depending on the nature and seriousness of
their violations, be administratively handled in the form of
caution and fine." For public officials, the measures
become even sterner: Article 27 requires that "officials,
public employees and/or people's armed force personnel who
commit acts violating law provisions on prostitution
prevention and combat shall, apart from being handled under
the provisions prescribed in articles of the ordinance, have
their acts notified to the heads of their competent managing
agencies, organizations or units for education and
disciplining . . . [and] during the period of being
disciplined, not be appointed nor stand for election . . .
nor be appointed or re-appointed to equivalent or higher
posts in the State agencies or the people's armed forces."
According to the media, the NASC decided against a
requirement to inform family members of cases in which
government officials were caught with prostitutes.

5. (U) The ordinance reaffirms penal liability for buyers
of "sex with minors" and for those who "though being aware
of their HIV infection, deliberately transmit the disease."
It also specifically reiterated penal liabilities for those
who engage in trafficking in women and/or children, as well
as those who act as "go-betweens for" or harbor or coerce
prostitution. The ordinance retains existing administrative
sanctions, including possible re-education and/or medical
treatment, for prostitutes themselves.

--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (U) The ordinance tasks MOLISA with "formulating, and
organizing the implementation of, policies and plans on
prostitution prevention and combat" in coordination with
other agencies and organizations. The Ministry of Public
Security (MPS) "shall have to organize the prevention and
combat of crimes of prostitution and trafficking in women
and children in service of prostitution activities as well
as law violations related to prostitution." MPS shall also
coordinate with MOLISA and other agencies "in directing,
guiding and organizing the community-based management and
education of prostitutes as well as persons committing
prostitution-related acts." Article 24 defines persons
committing prostitution-related acts as "those who protect
prostitution, contribute capital for use for prostitution
purposes." This latter group shall be administratively
sanctioned or examined for penal liability "depending on the
nature and seriousness of their violations."

7. (U) According to media, USD$1.5 million will be
allocated for implementation of this ordinance, which one
MOLISA official admitted to reporters was a "very
insufficient" sum.

8. (U) Comment: The GVN takes seriously its efforts to
combat trafficking in persons, although it remains
chronically strapped for operational funds. Both the GVN
and Communist Party of Vietnam have also spoken repeatedly
and forcefully about the need to improve the moral tone of
officials and to ensure more suitable conduct in order to
preserve the dignity and authority of the State and Party.
Given the ever-more open nature of Vietnamese society,
endemic corruption, and access to prostitution and other
"social evils," there are widespread doubts that even this
new ordinance will prove particularly effective in dealing
with the general problem of prostitution, however.

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