Pundits in Vietnam are calling for legal revisions to be made to the country’s sexual assault laws after a Hanoi man was fined a mere VND200,000 (US$8.6) for forcefully kissing a young woman in an apartment elevator.
Police in Thanh Xuan District on Monday imposed the penalty on Do Manh Hung, 47, for “offensive words and actions toward another person,” in accordance with Article 5 under Decree No. 167.
The administrative fine for such a violation ranges from VND100,000 ($4) to VND300,000 ($13).
On March 4, security cameras caught Hung cornering V., a 20-year-old university student, in an elevator at the Golden Palm Apartment Complex in Nhan Chinh Ward, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi.
In the released CCTV footage, Hung can be seen backing the girl into a corner of the empty elevator, grabbing her, and kissing her.
Police gave Hung two opportunities to publically apologize to the victim, but he failed to show up. In his absence, police officers announced that he would be fined.
Despite her disappointment at the decision, the V. chose not to lodge an appeal, explaining that she was exhausted from all the drama.
According to one judge in Ho Chi Minh City, the fine was just a slap on the wrist – an opinion shared by many legal experts from around the country.
Tran Ngoc Nu, a member of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, asserted that the man should be charged with molestation because he touched the victim's ‘sensitive areas.’
“The lips are considered a sensitive area. Plus, the victim definitely suffered from being attacked by a stranger in a public space,” Nu stated.
Under current laws, however, perpetrators can only be charged with molestation if the victim is under 16 years old. The punishment for molestation ranges from six months to 12 years in prison.
There are currently no laws protecting victims over the age of 16.
“The law needs to be changed and there needs to be more specific regulations,” Nu stressed.
Pham Cong Hung, a former Supreme People’s Court judge, explained that the correct term for Hung’s offense is ‘sexual assault.'
“The Penal Code does not have any promulgation on this violation, so adjustments must be made to deal with future similar cases,” Hung elaborated.
The VND200,000 fine is indeed very lenient, but it is difficult charge the man under the current law, the ex-judge said.
“I believe that there should be a harsher fine and that the man’s workplace should also impose suitable disciplinary actions for his offense,” he added.