New Vietnam decree graphically defines child molestation

By Quoc Dat   October 15, 2019 | 11:50 pm PT
New Vietnam decree graphically defines child molestation
Child molestation carries a sentence of six months to 12 years in jail in Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/HTWE.
A new decree on molestation of minors issued by the supreme court lays out what acts constitute child molestation.

It describes forcing a sexual organ (penis or vagina), other organs (arms, legs, fingers, mouth, tongue) or sexual objects on sensitive areas (groin, thighs, buttocks, breasts, scrotum, anus) or the sexual organs of a person under 16 as child molestation.

To solicit people under 16 to come in contact with one’s sensitive organs or perform sexual acts, including kissing on the mouth, neck, ears, and nape, is also child molestation.

Child molestation carries a sentence of six months to 12 years in jail.

But a court official clarified when asked by VnExpress that not all contact with sensitive organs constitute child molestation: Children’s caregivers and people carrying out diagnoses or committing such acts for educational purposes would not face charges.

But the decree does not go into acts that constitute molestation of people above 16.

Acts that constitute child molestation currently attract fines of a mere VND300,000 ($13) when carried out against people aged above 16.

A draft amendment to a government decree on social evils and public safety violations drawn up last month stipulates fines of VND3-5 million ($129-215) for sexual harassment, molestation and sexual acts in public.

Truong Anh Tu, a lawyer, said however that the Ministry of Public Security needs to clearly define harassment, molestation and public sexual acts since no document does it yet.

The public and legal experts have for long complained about the numerous legal loopholes that allow sex offenders to get away with a slap on the wrist.

Last March, a man was fined just VND200,000 ($9) after forcibly kissing a woman in an elevator in Hanoi. This provoked public outrage, with many saying the fine was too lenient and an insult to the victim, revealing major weaknesses in the current legal system for tackling sexual harassment.

Last month, a man who groped a woman while she was drying clothes on the street in central Quang Nam Province also got away with a VND200,000 fine.

Such lenient punishment would not deter prospective offenders and would merely discourage victims and potential victims from revealing the truth, Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, told VnExpress International.

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