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Speaking out on child sex abuse

Update: March, 16/2017 - 18:30
Representatives of civil society organisations at a seminar on child sexual abuse cases. — VNS Photo Khánh Dương
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI — Those who are silent on the sexual abuse of children support the crime, participants agreed at a workshop in Hà Nội on Tuesday.

The workshop’s theme, “Child Sexual Harassment: Staying silent or raising voice”, is a hot-button issue after a series of molestations were reported on social platforms recently. 

None of the offenders have been punished, generating public outrage.

According to speakers at the workshop, the main blame lies with the judicial agencies, legal executive agencies, social organisations, media and families who fail to act. Such failure to respond to child sexual abuse creates irreparable psychological and health impact on victims and has long-term consequences for society.

Child pornography or pedophilia are clearly prohibited in Việt Nam’s Criminal Code, however, the punishment is light, said Lê Văn Luân, a lawyer who is consulting on a sexual abuse case in Hà Nội that has attracted recent public attention.

In other countries, those who let children see pornography might be brought to court. In Việt Nam, the Criminal Code has loopholes.

“Our legal process requires physical traces on a victim’s body. That is the reason why a lot of sexual harassment cases do not have enough evidence for prosecution and offenders have not been punished,” he said.

“Why does it [child sexual abuse prosecution] stop? Because of silence from all sectors. The silence of families, the silence of the community, the silence of authorised agencies and many other parties,” Dr Khuất Thu Hồng, director of the Institute for Social Development Studies, said.

The silence originates from Vietnamese culture: fear of talking about sex. In addition, legal systems are not strong enough. Legal executive officers seem to think that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that attract attention. Even children are blamed for not knowing how to protect themselves.

“We cannot solve this problem if this kind of victim blaming continues. How many people would dare to raise their voice to report such cases?”

Family psychological expert Hà Minh Loan said that if the people who dare to raise their voice are supported, the condemnation assumes greater force. Việt Nam has 15 State agencies in charge of child rights protection, but participants agreed that the nation must take advantage of these agencies and strongly collaborate with civil society organisations.

Refusing the right to have personal secrets protected and raising one’s voice about sexual abuse cases requires major courage from victims, said civil lawyer Nguyến Thế Truyền.

Primary school children must be equipped with enough information about sexual harassment to know how to protect themselves, he said.

He suggested that students from grade one to grade five be taught their personal rights to safety of life, health and body. VNS


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