The number of child sex abuse cases in Vietnam has been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years, making experts scratch their heads over the cause as well as suitable penalties for offenders.
Among 8,200 cases of child abuse across the country recorded between 2011 and 2015, 5,300 were related to child molestation, experts said at a seminar on child protection on Tuesday.
The event was organized by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, in cooperation with the UNICEF Regional Office for East Asia and the Pacific.
Recent statistics of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) showed that most children are abused at the average age of nine, while violators are most likely to be their acquaintances such as a distant relative or a friend of their parents’.
Nguyen Trong An, deputy director of the Research and Training Center for Community Development, said that the statistics just serve as the tip of the iceberg since he believes the real number is much higher.
Sexual harassment damages young children both physically and mentally, making it difficult for them to integrate into the community later.
Findings of the Supreme People’s Court pinpointed that many victims decided not to report their molesters due to threats, combined with a lack of attention from their parents and family members.
In several cases, adults are unable to recognize the severity of the situation even after kids have reported being abused.
Homeless children face the highest risk of being sexually harassed as offenders can take advantage of their innocence and the absence of parental guidance, or use money to lure them.
As more families from provinces across Vietnam have been moving to big cities, their children are more likely to be exposed to such offenses, especially when their parents are busy at work, An said.
Guardians of children have overlooked the importance of protecting their kids from potential abuse, the expert continued.
“The Vietnamese law has not been enforced in a stern and assertive manner when it comes to punishing violators. There are many cases in which offenders who are high-profile individuals are tolerated,” An added.
Strict regulations and severe punishment have to be applied in order to deter child sex abuse, the expert emphasized, citing an example of the law in the United States.
“Child sex abuse convicts in the U.S. are punished with very harsh sentences. Their families would also have to pay a high amount of money for the defendants to be released on bail,” he said.
According to An, another essential measure is to raise awareness of parents of how to protect their children properly.
“Parents have to talk to their kids about certain body parts they must not let strangers touch. They should also tell their kids not to come home late or hang out in deserted areas,” he recommended.
Recent cases in Vietnam
According to a Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper source, police in the northern province of Lao Cai have arrested A.Q.S., an elementary school teacher, for molesting his student, following a report by the victim’s family in early March.
In another case, Do Van Nam, 34, who works as a security guard at an elementary school in Muong Khuong District, Lao Cai, was detained for having harassed over 20 schoolgirls since 2014.
Nam’s violation was only realized by the victims’ families and the school in early March, when several students refused to go to school for feeling too frightened.
In January, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Vadim Scott Benderman, a 46-year-old man from Canada, to four years in prison for child sex abuse.
The convict, who came to Vietnam in June 2014 to work as an English teacher at a language center in the capital, was found for several times molesting four young boys within a period of six months.