Domestic violence an under-reported problem in Vietnam

By Viet Tuan   December 13, 2018 | 02:20 am PT
Domestic violence an under-reported problem in Vietnam
Limited awareness and legal loopholes are to blame for the under-reportage of domestic violence in Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/sdecoret
Like it or not, domestic violence happens far more often than reported in Vietnam, experts say.

They attributed the underreporting to limited awareness and legal loopholes at a conference held Wednesday to review 10 years of implementing the Law on Domestic Violence Prevention and Control.

Trinh Thi Thuy, deputy minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said a survey by the ministry found 30 percent of respondent families saying there was "at least one instance of domestic violence in the family each year."

There were almost 300,000 cases of domestic violence nationwide between 2009 and 2017, she added, citing statistics compiled by several culture departments.

However, according to the justice department, there were 1.4 million divorce cases nationwide between 2008 and 2018. Of these, a million cases involved domestic violence, statistics showed.

The data mismatch raised questions from Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam at the conference, who said the numbers suggested that there would have to be at least 100,000 cases of domestic violence each year

"Is the mismatch because local data was wrong, or because authorities were scared of losing face?" he asked.

Additionally, hundreds of child victims of domestic violence are hospitalized each year, said Le Thanh Hai, Director of the National Hospital of Pediatrics. However, here too, actual numbers are severely under-reported, he said.

"For every child admitted to the hospital because of domestic violence, another 300 to 600 similar cases are not reported," Hai said.

Agreeing, Thuy said most domestic violence cases go unreported, either because people don’t even realize that it was domestic violence, or because they want to save face. 

Laws too general

Legal loopholes are another challenge, speakers said at the conference.

The Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence is too "general and incomplete," according to the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor (VGCL).

It suggested that the law should include behavior like forced pregnancies or choice of fetuses’ sex as domestic violence, an opinion shared by Nguyen Van Thuan, Tribunal Vice President of the Supreme People’s Court.

Thuan added that in some cases of domestic violence, the law should allow aggravating circumstances to turn them into human rights violations, which typically carry more severe sentences.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health has recorded around 20,000 cases of domestic violence every year, with 97 percent of the victims being women.

A 2013 WHO report found Southeast Asia ranked highest after Africa, at 40.2 percent, for lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, or both, among all women of 15 years or older.

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