Vietnam shocked by extent of sexual abuse children face

By Staff reporters   April 6, 2019 | 05:01 pm PT
Vietnam shocked by extent of sexual abuse children face
A screenshot from CCTV camera showed Nguyen Huu Linh hugging a little girl . Photo obtained by VnExpress
Sexual abuse of children is far more prevalent than thought, and Vietnamese citizens want strong counter measures as soon as possible.

The latest case of child abuse came to light earlier this week when CCTV footage in a Saigon elevator showed a man hugging a little girl Monday night.

The man was quickly identified as Nguyen Huu Linh, former deputy chief prosecutor of Da Nang, who retired in 2018. 

Once the footage was leaked on the Internet, public outrage followed, and Linh had to face the music. People threw dirt at his house and someone painted au dam (paedophilia) in black paint on his gate.

People threw dirt at his house and someone painted au dam (paedophilia) in black paint on his gate. Photo by VnExpress/N.T

People threw dirt at his house and someone painted au dam (paedophilia) in black paint on his gate. Photo by VnExpress/N.T

Angry comments filled social media, mincing no words. 

"A new kind of pervert has appeared in apartment building elevators, so parents should be cautious and always stay by their daughters to protect them from these perverts. Disgusting!," a VnExpress reader commented. 

"He knows the law and was once in a high position in the executive body of a major city, but he violated the law; there needs to be heavier punishment for him," said another reader.

"It pains me a lot to watch these clips and see kids without the ability to protect themselves being molested by perverts," wrote another reader. "The law cannot be lenient and forgive perverts who hurt the body and soul of children."

The strong reactions against Linh stemmed from the fact it was only the latest case of sexual abuse of a child in recent months.

Last December, the principal of a high school in the northern province of Phu Tho was found to have forced numerous male students to "perform sexual services" to him for several years.

In yet another case, exposed last month, a primary school teacher in Hanoi was accused of touching several 5th graders in "inappropriate places."

About 2,000 cases of child abuse are discovered in Vietnam every year, according to data from the Ministry of Labor. Over 60 percent of them are sexual in nature.

Over 1,500 cases of child sexual abuse were reported in the country in both 2018 and 2017, only showing slight improvements in child protection, a labor ministry report stated.

Too lenient

"Like everyone else, I was angry and worried on learning about [the recent] cases of child abuse," said Hoang Thu Huong, vice director of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE).

"It hurts not just because children are being abused, but that the very foundations of our laws and moral values are being challenged."

The latest exposures have trained the spotlight on the failure of Vietnam’s legal system to publish violators. Many people have argued that sexual crimes are on the rise partly because legal punishments are far too lenient.

"Since [the criminal] was only fined VND200,000 last time, it creates a precedent for future crimes. That’s horrible. Since it’s a little girl this time, the punishment needs to be severe," a VnExpress reader said. 

The "last time" that the reader was referring to happened last month, when camera footage showed a man forcibly kissing a woman in an elevator in Hanoi. Public anger was magnified when it was revealed that the man got to walk free with a paltry fine of VND200,000 ($8.63).

Many people said they no longer believed in justice when sexual perpetrators faced no consequence for their actions.

The lack of legal protection and deterrent puts Vietnamese children at particular risk of being sexually abused, readers and experts have said, calling for swift changes to the law that  impose stricter punishments for sexual crimes.

"Crimes need to be clearly defined and punishments need to be much stricter and more thorough," said VnExpress reader San Nguyen.

"Schools and teachers should educate students to recognize acts of sexual abuse and teach them how to protect themselves, or at least know how to call for help," said another reader.

Government response

Vietnamese officialdom has stepped in with pledges to introduce new changes to the whole system.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam issued a wide range of instructions to various ministries on Wednesday, targeting more effective measures, preventive and punitive, to protect children’s rights in the country.

The Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs was asked to make changes to and implement policies to better protect children’s rights, to deal properly with violations and to set up units to monitor and deal with cases of abuse.

The Ministry of Education and Training should monitor all kindergartens to spot wrongdoing and prevent violence against chidren, Dam said.

He said the Ministry of Health should evaluate the degree of psychological trauma inflicted on children by sexual abuse towards formulating suitable policies to protect them, as well as creating a foundation on which criminal cases can be prosecuted.

To Lam, Minister of Public Security, said at another Wednesday meeting that the ministry needs to vigorously monitor and neutralize cases of violence and abuse of children, and ensure punishments that deter such crimes.

Vietnam was the first country in Asia and second in the world to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1990. 

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