Can a separate police force tackle pedophilia effectively?

By Long Nguyen   November 29, 2019 | 05:34 am PT
Can a separate police force tackle pedophilia effectively?
Children can be traumatized after being abused. Photo by Shuttlestock/271 EAK MOTO.
HCMC has proposed a dedicated police force to tackle sexual abuse of children, but doubts exist about its effectiveness as a preventive measure.

Many people have questioned the need to set up yet another agency in addition to the several existing ones, saying the latter could be trained to do a better job.

The city People’s Committee has recently proposed a specialized force to the Ministry of Justice, saying there should be a single agency to receive and handle all complaints related to child abuse.

Vietnam recognizes 17 organizations as having the responsibility to protect children, including the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Education and Training and the National Committee on Children.

Will one more agency make a difference, both the public and experts are asking.

Nguyen Thi Dao of HCMC's District 11, a mother of two primary school girls, said: "Parents and teachers cannot keep their eyes on their kids all the time. I think a helping hand from the authorities is a good idea and the police can be an iron fist that scares adults who have the intention to harm minors, but why do we need a new police force?"

Some people wondered why the current law enforcement agencies cannot do the job.

Tran Thanh Quang, 42, a father, said: "We have a lot of government agencies protecting children. I do not know if a new force can solve the problem. We can train local police officers so they can do better in dealing with child abuse."

Some provinces across the country have in fact been training police officers for the last few years to recognize signs of sexual assault on children and help children become aware of threats.

Le Thi Tuyet Nga, founder of social enterprise She Will Be Strong, which works to make women mentally and physically fit to prevent and tackle abuse, said that the establishment of a new force dedicated to protecting kids is good news, but, "if this force is set up only to investigate crimes after they occur, it is not the way to deal with the issue."

The force would only be effective if it has detailed prevention plans including working closely with schools and families to educate both children and adults, Nga said.

Experts have said Vietnam should ensure that its legal and education systems need to be improved to tackle the problem.

Simone Vis, Chief of Education at UNICEF Vietnam, said the country lacks both a robust legal framework to protect children from all forms of violence and a care and support system for victims.

In May, the Ministry of Education and Training made teaching prevention of sexual abuse mandatory in elementary schools from this year onwards. Illustrated manuals were added to the list of basic teaching equipment for first grade.

Nga said authorities should also organize training at schools to help children have a better understanding of their rights and set up hotlines for minors to seek help.

"The battle against child abuse needs the cooperation of many parties: families, schools, law enforcement, and the media," she added.

The city’s proposal follows an increase in the number of sexual attacks on children coming to light. A report by the HCMC People’s Committee says that in the last five years, sexual attacks have led to the death of six children and injuries to six others while 14 have developed mental problems. Nine children have quit school and 661 others are "living with dreadful consequences on their physical and mental health."

The victims were attacked not only in private places but also in public places like parks, schools and elevators.

Across the country 1,547 cases of child abuse were recorded in 2018, but many people say it is just the tip of the iceberg and the actual number is much higher.

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