Vietnam Closes Detention Centre Number Five

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After years of campaigning by sex workers, the infamous Detention Centre Number Five is closed down.

Although not officially a prison, Detention Centre Number 05 was the centre where drug users and sex workers were sent for anywhere between three months and two years after they were arrested for the “crime” of using drugs or doing sex work.

Supposedly a ‘merciful’ alternative to prison where new skills and professions could be learned, in practice conditions involved excessive hours of work and inadequate food, sanitation and medical care.

After multiple stays in the centre, sex workers began reporting on the terrible conditions to NGOs, who in turn invited them to speak at conferences, leading eventually to meetings with government.

By telling their own stories, and by doing research surveys with other people who had been through the detention centre, sex workers were able to demonstrate that the program was not effective at stopping people from using drugs or doing sex work.

Finally the government listened and engaged in dialogue asking what sex workers wanted and needed. The outcome of this is not just the detention centre closing, but also a new understanding between sex workers and government.