The recent increase of child sexual abuse cases has raised public concern, which requires authorities to enforce children’s rights and scrutinise the implementation of signed international conventions to ensure the protection of children’s rights in particular and human rights.
Deputy Director of the Research and Training Centre for Community Development Nguyen Trong An, also former deputy head of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Department of Child Care and Protection, said many parents and children lack knowledge about the issue.
Therefore, some child victims do not know they are being abused and some abusers are unaware they are breaking the law.
The 2016 Child Law stipulates that child sexual abuse is using force, threat to use force, obliging or seducing children to join sexual activity, including rape, sexual intercourse and obscenity or using children for prostitution or pornography in any form.
In Vietnam, child sexual abuse is on the rise in recent years, he said, citing statistics from the Ministry of Public Security that more than 1,000 cases were reported each year in the 2008-2011 period. The figure in 2012 was 1,400 and rose to 1,500-1,700 between 2014 and 2015.
Abuse could be more common than reported due to poor information and data collection in localities, he said, adding that child sexual abuse causes serious physical and psychological harm on children.
According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund in 2011, up to 60 percent of children suffer from mental disorders after sexual abuse. The victims feel ashamed, guilty or live in fear and with a lot of stress, making it difficult for them to concentrate on learning and making them want to get away from other people.
Additionally, sexual child abuse victims face a risk of contracting dangerous infections, including HIV.
An pointed out reasons behind the increase in child sexual abuse, including the negative impacts of the market economy and poor family education.
Many parents pay little attention to their children and lack knowledge about children’s rights and skills for child protection and prevention of sexual violence and abuse.
Meanwhile, education at school focuses much more on academic knowledge than on moral education and life skills for students.
Another reason is the insufficient community-based network to protect and care for children as well as an imperfect child protection system.
PhD. Khuat Thu Hong from the Institute for Social Development Studies said gender inequality is the underlying cause of child sexual abuse and is also a cultural barrier that has caused sexual violence against women and children to rise.
She noted that Vietnam was one of the first nations to sign the International Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. The country also has laws on children and progressive policies and legal regulations on child protection.
However, tardy law enforcement in the field as well as the indifference of some officials has swept some child sexual abuse and violence cases under the rug.
Many cases are addressed with “reconciliation” even when there are criminal acts, she said, adding that several victims suffer frequent sexual abuse and violence due to slack legal procedures and loopholes.
Lawyer Le The Nhan, Chairman of the Centre for Community Development and Social Work, suggested reviewing the legal system to improve the protection of human rights, especially the privacy of victims and their families.
Doctor Nguyen Trong An said it is necessary to increase coordination between families and schools to educate them on gender issues and prepare self-protection measures for children.
Parents should be provided with knowledge to recognize child sexual abuse risks while child care agencies need to establish a community-based network to protect children, he recommended.