Uphold the law, don’t take it into your own hands

Vuong Thuy Kieu was a prostitute. There is no Vietnamese generation that has not been moved by her epic, tragically immortal story – the sacrifices she made time and again for her family, becoming the epitome of filial piety held so dear in our culture. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the Tale of Kieu has touched the hearts of millions outside Vietnam, too. Nguyen Du’s poetic magnum opus might be a work of fiction, but it has deep roots in reality; in the austere Buddhist and ossified Confucian tenets that have shaped Vietnamese society over millennia. And it is an open secret that many women, not just in Vietnam, but the world over, have resorted to and are resorting to commercial sex work to support their families, laying their bodies on the line, literally. These social, historic and cultural contexts were completely lost on one police officer in the southern town of Dong Duong on Phu Quoc Island, who, wielding a microphone as a weapon of self-perceived righteous punishment, sought recently to publicly shame two commercial sex workers, a client and the owner of a café believed to have organised the service. The police officer read out aloud the ‘sins’ of and respective fines for the four people involved in ‘selling and buying sex’ while forcing them to stand in broad daylight. Then, he asked each of the four people to step up, and “introduced” them. A thickening crowd of curious people, including children,… [Read full story]


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