HCM CITY (VNS)— Despite concerted international efforts to combat sexual abuse of children, the trend is increasing worldwide, including in Viet Nam, according to Zhuldyz Akisheva, country manager of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Akisheva spoke on Tuesday at a workshop held in HCM City to discuss Southeast Asia's law enforcement efforts on child sexual exploitation in travel and tourism.
She pointed out that higher tourism growth had contributed greatly to Viet Nam's economy but it had also opened up more possibilities for child exploitation by tourists.
Child-sex tourism occurs when children are exploited by someone who has traveled from another location, including tourists, business travellers or expatriates.
Victims of child sexual abuse are mostly poor children or street children who live in tourist areas in big cities.
Children who live in coastal or mountainous areas or migrant children are also frequent victims, according to Colonel Pham Van Sy of Viet Nam's Ministry of Public Security's Department of Criminal Police.
He said the children sell sex to earn money or allow tourists to touch or fondle them. Sometimes the children are photographed or filmed when they are unclothed.
Sex offences account for a large amount of all crimes committed against children in Viet Nam, according to a report on the implementation of the country's Penal Code provisions related to child sex-tourism offences.
The survey was conducted by the Ministry of Justice in co-operation with the UNODC in August and September.
Although there are no official statistics, there appears to be a strong link between child-sex crimes and popular tourist areas.
Tran Van Dung of the Ministry of Justice said criminal acts as well as child-abuse crimes could lead to serious diplomatic incidents if they were not handled effectively.
Although individual countries have their own regulations, Dung said that compatible regulations among countries would enhance the effectiveness of prevention.
In 2004, the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Viet Nam is a member, signed the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters agreement, in which they agreed to share evidence with each other to identify and fight child-sex offenders who are travellers.
Dung said that it was necessary for the Mekong region countries, including Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos, conduct research on sex-crime activities and sign bilateral or multi – lateral extradition treaties.
The UN's Akisheva said that Southeast Asia began its fight against child sex tourism with the international campaign in 1990 called "Ending Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism".
Since then, the governments of Southeast Asia have created programmes in line with international instruments.— VNS