Viet Nam News
By Gia Lộc
HCM CITY — Lawyer Trần Thị Ngọc Nữ is indefatigable in her mission to protect children from sexual abuse and assault.
For the last five years, as head of the city’s the Association for Protection of Children’s Rights’ lawyers’ division, Nữ has provided free legal help for victims of child abuse.
Known for her proactive approach, she knocks on doors of government agencies and searches for evidence to present to the court.
She has even petitioned Deputy Prime Minister Vũ Đức Đam for his help in several cases when the police did not recommend criminal proceedings against alleged abusers.
“Every day, the lawyers’ division receives four to five calls and letters asking for help,” the 62-year-old said. “The number is higher than in the past because more people are aware of criminal proceedings against abusers. Also, the new Law on Children came into effect in June last year.”
Parents of the abused children who speak out are “brave”, Nữ said, adding that emotional scars from sexual and physical abuse can last a lifetime, and some children commit suicide.
Whenever Nữ speaks about abused children whose cases are not referred by police to the courts, she is often moved to tears.
Every abuse case is important, but she is especially concerned with sexual abuse of girls with disabilities.
Her concern led her and several friends in 2013 to establish the Association for Protection of Children’s Rights and its lawyers’ division, which seeks justice for the victims by filing lawsuits.
“Before this was established, victims and their parents did not know where to go for help,” she said.
She began with 10 lawyers at a time when the public was wary of seeking help.
But now, after winning cases that have sent sexual offenders to prison, parents and children trust Nữ and the lawyers’ division, which has grown to 30 lawyers.
They provide free legal assistance for victims and their parents in the city and provinces in the country.
A father in Bình Thuận Province, 200 kilometres from HCM City, for example, came to the lawyers’ division to ask for help after his daughter was sexually assaulted by a 28-year-old man.
The investigation police did not commence criminal proceedings against the man because of insufficient evidence.
Nữ returned to his hometown to seek evident and force the investigation police to start criminal proceedings.
Finally, the man was sentenced to two years in prison after Nữ filed a lawsuit.
Even though Nữ has at times been physically attacked by relatives of alleged abusers in the courtroom and received threatening phone messages, she has not allowed this to deter her from seeking justice for the children.
“My colleagues and I sometimes want to give up, but when we think about the children who need protection, we want to pursue our path for justice,” Nữ said.
Đỗ Ngọc Thanh, a lawyer with the lawyers’ division, said that Nữ was a role model and inspired him in his work.
“She is both a colleague and a mentor who provides guidance on collecting documents and finding evidence to win in court,” Thanh said.
Nữ and the other lawyers often carry out mock trials in residential areas in the city and provinces to educate parents and children about sexual abuse and assault.
They also provide information to them on what they can do after the abuse occurs.
At the mock trials, the Law on Children is also discussed.
Nữ, who also works on domestic abuse cases, received merit certificates from the Việt Nam Fatherland Front Central Committee in 2016 and from the Việt Nam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights last year.
Besides work on her current cases, Nữ is trying to improve the laws that protect children. She has asked the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs’ Department of Child Care and Protection to streamline the process needed to prosecute child sexual and physical abuse cases so that abusers would be punished as soon as possible. — VNS