Violence against children occurs everywhere in the world, including in Việt Nam, but people turn a blind eye to it. It happens every day at home, in school and in the community. UNICEF’s research in recent years has shown the extent to which physical, sexual and emotional abuse impacts on children’s lives and on society as a whole in the long term. Child abuse and violence is costing countries in East Asia and the Pacific around US$209 billion a year, equivalent to two per cent of their combined GDP.
Việt Nam has been a child rights pioneer for over 25 years, having been the second country in the world to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in 1990. The recent enactment of the Child Law by Việt Nam’s National Assembly is in many ways another step forward. It attempts to make a breakthrough in the protection of children from violence by introducing for the first time an approach that covers both the prevention of violence before it happens, and responding to violence when it does occur.
However, the Child Law still considers a child to be someone under 16, rather than the age specified in the CRC of under 18. This leaves 16-18 year olds unprotected. UNICEF is therefore calling for the age of the Child Law to be raised to 18.
One of the most common forms of violence affecting three in four children in Việt Nam is corporal punishment inflicted on children by those supposed to protect them, including their parents, teachers and caregivers. It can have serious and lifelong consequences on children. People sometimes think that physical discipline is for the child’s own good. This is simply not true – research has shown that ‘positive parenting’ can be more effective than physical discipline. This focuses on setting clear, consistent boundaries for children in a kind and loving way.
This problem is not limited to Việt Nam alone. Governments and societies need to come together to eliminate violence against children. On November 7-8, 2016, the Government of Malaysia will host ‘A Billion Brains’, the third High Level Meeting for Co-operation on Child Rights, with support from UNICEF. The event will bring together ministers and senior politicians from countries across Asia and the Pacific to promote child rights.
A high level representation from Việt Nam will reaffirm the country’s commitment to children’s rights. At the meeting, Việt Nam’s leaders will have the opportunity to share their experiences and achievements in strengthening children’s rights, and to discuss new opportunities for regional co-operation.
Violence against children is everywhere but hidden behind closed doors. All children have the right to live free from violence that harms their physical and mental growth, and holds back society. Violence against children is entirely preventable when people come together and say that it is not acceptable. — VNS
*Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific