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    Thursday, November 24, 2005

    Vietnam Sex Tourism

    Alright, so Bangkok is bad, not just for the euphemisms, but because of what we ALL know goes on there. Vietnam, for its part, has done, I think, a remarkable job fighting this. However, nothing is perfect, and it still goes on far too often in the motherland. Take Gary Glitter for example. I first heard this from The Rice Bowl and nearly puked. The man has been previously convicted of 54 counts of posessing child pornography, and he's spent time in Cambodia, now Vietnam, and was trying to get to Thailand.

    Adults can be adults, and if someone from outside Vietnam was attracted to a Vietnamese woman, my response would be "of course"! I think they are very attractive, hence I married my wife. But in Vietnam, where the age of consent is already low at 16, do you really have to go for 8, 10, and 12 year olds. Gosh, Vietnam has enough problems as it struggles to overcome the hyperinflation of the 1980s, the vestiges of the Vietnam war (for arguably 50 years before 1975), and the cultural revolution it is undergoing due to MTV. Do you have to throw in sexual predators too? Maybe it's my hatred of pedophiles, or the softspot in my heart for Vietnam, but it sickens me.

    When I was in Vietnam last year, I remember distinctly walking down a street in Hanoi and having two young women on a motorbike ride up next to me (at about 10:00pm) and ask if I wanted "boom boom." What a perfect english euphemism for sex. It's descriptive but leaves you with only the physical inference of sex, not any of the emotional or psychological bonds that develop from a healthy relationship.

    When I met my friends, Phuong and Hai, in Sapa later on, they told me of visiting a massage parlor on the road from Hanoi to Sapa. In it, Phuong talked to his massuse who spoke southern. He was shocked. You don't find many in the North. "Why are you up here"? he asked. She proceeded to tell him that she came from a rural area in the south and her parents sent her and her sister up north to work in massage parlors and make money. They encouraged, even demanded, that she and her sister sleep with patrons to make more money. She confided in Phuong that she and her sister continually angered their parents by not doing that, and they were secretly saving money to buy a house and go to college. When that day happened, they could finally be rid of their parents' evil demands.

    At The Rice Bowl, Pieman makes good comments about the prevalence of the underage sex trade to native Viets. It is not just a westerner thing. Vietnam has outlawed Vietnamese nationals going into hotels with westerners of the opposite sex to try and curb this, and two years ago tried to shut down all karaoke bars (although the nation almost revolted and it was stopped). Although the Vietnamese government is doing good things in its fight against child prostitution, it will fight a losing battle until it tackles the economic disparity between Ho Chi Minh City and the rest of Vietnam that causes parents to urge their children to sell their bodies, and young girls to move to the city and whore themselves.

    America and other countries have extra-territorial laws to prosecute predators oversees, but it isn't enough. Look up Vietnam's status on fighting this here. Here's a link for how you may help.

    4 comments:

    Omar Cruz said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    kingng said...

    Er, they were saying up to buy a house and go college? lol and they were believed? You'll get exactly the same story in Thailand, Phils etc.

    alina nguyen said...

    Thank you for the information + links for further reading. I got to your blog trying to find research about mail-order brides and sex tourism in Vietnam. ^these comments are terrible, by the way. kingng, is hope for a better life -- a life that doesn't involve prostituting your body (oftentimes the only economic choice), and a life of education and financial freedom REALLY make you that skeptical? Women of color are also human beings (something people like you often forget, I know.)

    Triet said...

    Alina,

    Glad my post could be of some help. Kingng is cynical but correct - probably 90% of the time they are sleeping around - but they do dream of a house and college even if the money doesn't end up there.

    I have seen, because my wife has worked with Save the Children, much of the results of prostitution in Vietnam. Young women often get into it very insidiously. They start by taking a job at a bar, waiting tables, etc. After a while, a coworker tells them about extra cash they can make on the weekends just by having drinks with customers.

    Due to their impoverished circumstances, these young women get lured by the real dream of a house, college, food for the family, and start hanging out with the other girls on the weekends. Not long after, some patron asks if the girl would go back to his hotel. He offers some cash. She turns him down - the first time. Maybe even the 50th time. But eventually she caves.

    Then she falls in love with the money, the lifestyle, and things go great until she wakes up a year later, beaten by a client or pimp, pregnant, and HIV positive.

    It is a sad, sad story I've seen far too often.

    Save the Children helps the children of such situations because they get stigmatized coming from parents that have HIV/AIDS. They are often denied an education (even though that's illegal in Vietnam). Sometimes they too have HIV, and - because it's so difficult to get medications - live a short time before they succumb to the disease.

    Mail-order brides are almost worse in my eyes, because they often are sold by their own loved-ones. Family sees that they can make $5K to $15K by marrying off their daughter, and ignore the rampant stories of bride abuse. The poor girl ends up in Korea, China, or Taiwan, unable to speak the language, beaten daily by her husband, without knowledge of her rights that could protect her, and without anyone to turn to.