|The research surveyed 120 street children, aged between 8 and 17 years old in HCM City, and living off begging, shoe polishing or postcard and book peddling.— File Photo
HA NOI (VNS)— A recent study has shown that street children facing a high risk of being sexually abused are unaware of support services and programmes available to them.
The research was conducted by the Centre for Management and Sustainable Development (MSD) from the beginning of this year with technical and financial support from the Danish non-governmental organisation, Fontana.
The research surveyed 120 street children, aged between 8 and 17 years old in HCM City, and living off begging, shoe polishing or postcard and book peddling.
Results of the study showed more than 90 per cent of respondents had been sexually abused to varying degrees; ranging from involuntarily physical contact to being forced to watch explicit films.
Meanwhile, nearly 70 per cent of respondents had not reported incidents of abuse; often feeling frightened, ashamed, or not knowing appropriate avenues for counseling or recourse.
Nearly 97 per cent of interviewed children had also been exposed to addictive substances, including alcohol, tobacco and various forms of heroin - sometimes leading to nerve damage, hepatitis B, HIV or sexual abuse.
However, only 21 per cent of the children knew about rehabilitation centres and nearly 80 per cent were unaware of any centres supporting children suffering from sexual abuse.
Hoang Thu Trang, an expert of the MSD and member of the research group, said the research was a siren call for relevant agencies to address the issue in a coordinated manner.
The research provides substantial, empirical evidence for policy makers and legislators, she said, adding that the Law on Child Protection, Care and Education was to be amended this year.
Trang suggested that helping street children attain identity papers would enable easy access to support services, adding that clearer regulations were needed in the Law on Child Protection, Care and Education; including a potential provision considering child prostitutes as victims of sexual abuse.
The State should have policies encouraging organisations and individuals to collaborate in providing care and protective services for street children, she said.
Ha Dinh Bon, deputy director of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs' Legislation Department, said that the Law on Child Protection, Care and Education was issued 10 years ago and was hampered by limitations.
Legislators will look to include more detailed regulations on children's rights in the revised Law, incorporating elements from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
At present, the convention regulates approximately 28 forms of child rights, of which only 10 are enshrined in the present law, said Bon.
The law would also define the rights and responsibility of families, schools and organisations in providing support and protection for children being sexually abused.
Authorities are also determined to provide consistent punishments for people found sexually abusing or engaging in violent behaviour towards children, he said.
The law is expected to be submitted to the Government by mid 2015. — VNS