Vietnam does poorly in response-to-child-abuse ranking

By Nguyen Quy   January 22, 2019 | 11:15 am GMT+7
Vietnam does poorly in response-to-child-abuse ranking
This photograph taken on March 15, 2017 shows the mother of an abused eight-year-old girl walking toward the place where the girl was molested in a residential quarter in Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam

Vietnam languishes at the bottom of a global index in its response to child sex abuse, but Vietnamese officials disagree with the result.

The country is ranked 37th of 40 in the first-ever ranking of its kind compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

The ranking examines how countries are responding to the scourge of sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

The report, titled "Out of the shadows: Shining light on the response to child sexual abuse," was released last Wednesday.

It says that four indicators were taken into account: the sociopolitical environment, legal framework, government response and engagement of civil society and industry.

Vietnam scored poorly with 42.9 out of 100, slightly more than poor and conflict-torn Mozambique, Egypt and Pakistan.

It lagged well behind regional peers like the Philippines at 55.3 points (16th), Malaysia 20th with 53.4 points and Cambodia, 23rd with 52.5 points. Indonesia was 32nd with 47 points.

Vietnam’s weaknesses in the fight against child abuse lay in data collection on child molestation cases across the country and lack of intervention from media agencies and social organizations, the report said.

"Vietnam has no robust system in place to compile prevalence data on child sexual abuse. Data that is made public generally does not come in disaggregated form," the London-based research firm said in the report.

It also said that those working in the education, medical and social services sectors are not fully equipped with training or guidelines for dealing with cases that involve child victims of sexual abuse and exploitation.

Vietnam was also criticized for failing to develop programs to prevent child molesters from committing the crime.

Vietnam disagrees

Vietnamese officials in charge of child protection disagree with the ranking and assessment.

Dang Hoa Nam, head of the Child Protection and Care Department under the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, told the press in Hanoi Monday that the EIU survey contains points that were "unclear and opaque."

Nam said EIU does not have an office in Vietnam and the criteria used for the survey were not clear.

He said Vietnam established the Children's Law in 2016 and has enough policies to protect children from sexual abuse.

The country currently provides a hotline for people to report sexual abuse and has 116 public centers providing protection services for children apart from hundreds of facilities run by community organizations.

Nam said his unit is considering filing a response to the EIU report.

According to official reports, approximately one in four children in Vietnam is a victim of abuse and at least 1,300 cases of sexual violence against children are reported each year. The United Nations estimates that the true numbers are higher and consistently alarming.

Vietnam recorded 1,547 child sex abuse cases in 2018, down 2.8 percent from a year ago, according the latest figures from the Ministry of Public Security. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, two Vietnam’s largest cities, took the lead in terms of reported child molestation cases.

In most cases, the perpetrators have been found to be people familiar with the children, such as teachers, school security officials, relatives and neighbors, prompting lawmakers and non-governmental organizations to call for Vietnamese parents to be more alert and pay more attention to their children.

In Vietnam, having sex with a child under 13 years of age is considered rape, punishable by death under Vietnam’s Penal Code.

Experts have said that sexual abuse cases in Vietnam tend to be prolonged or even buried due to legal loopholes that require evidence of serious physical effects on the victims. People usually complain about the lack of physical evidence and difficulties in collecting testimonies from victims, especially children.

The EIU study ranked the U.K. as the strongest performer, with an overall score of 82.7, followed by Sweden and Canada.

Asian countries that performed better on the global ranking were South Korea at 7th, Japan, 10th and India, 13th.

 
 
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