A policy dialogue was held in Hanoi on Monday to explore solutions and innovative measures to increase legal awareness for strengthening prevention and response to violence against children in Vietnam.
Hosted by the Ministry of Justice, the policy dialogue served as a forum for stakeholders to discuss strategies and measures to increase awareness of laws and legal rights, which is essential for children victims of violence and their parents to affirmatively claim their rights, UNICEF Vietnam said in a press release the same day.
Speaking at the dialogue, Vice-Minister of Justice Nguyen Khanh Ngoc emphasizes that the lack of awareness and knowledge about law and policy on children’s rights is one of the challenges in law enforcement in Vietnam.
He also highlighted the importance of raising legal awareness in tackling violence against children.
Violence against children is an issue of great concern in the Southeast Asian country.
According to government data, between 2015 and Jun 2019, 8,709 children were identified as victims of violence, of which 71 percent fell prey to sexual violence.
However, cases reported and brought to trial represent only the tip of the iceberg, as many went unreported due to stigmatization, social tolerance, shame, fear, and distrust.
Participants in the dialogue discussed challenges and shared good practices in reforming legal dissemination and education for strengthened prevention and response to violence against children, especially to address the special needs of vulnerable groups, such as children from ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, out-of-school children, children without parental care, and girls.
“One important principle is to 'leave no one behind,'" Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti, head of the European Union Delegation to Vietnam, was quoted as saying in the press release.
"It means that we need to ensure that information is disseminated among marginalized and minority populations, including migrant children, children with disabilities, or those from ethnic minorities, those living on the streets.
"To achieve this, we need to bring about change in attitudes and practices in the communities, in the way they talk about children, promote respect for them, and recognize them as citizens within society."
“Raising legal awareness must go hand in hand with addressing social norms perpetuating violence,” emphasized Lesley Miller, UNICEF deputy representative.
“Social norms shape parents’ and teachers’ beliefs and behaviors with regard to violent discipline of children, and children’ views on whether such violence is acceptable.
"Social norms also influence police responsiveness and judicial attitudes on whether violence against children should be considered a family matter.
"Raising legal awareness demands dialogue on society at large, which can create a culture of non-violence in homes, schools and communities, and how parents and teachers can embrace non-violence forms of discipline.”
Vietnam has made considerable progress in strengthening national laws to address violence against children.
Children’s right to protection was recognized in the Constitution, and the Law on Children has an expanded chapter on child protection with clear articulation of prevention, early intervention, and response measures.
The recent Resolution of the Judges Council of the Supreme People’s Court on sexual crimes and protection of minors during trial proceedings provides a detailed interpretation of many forms of sexual abuse and aggravating circumstances, together with numerous measures to make adjudication procedures more sensitive and responsive to the special needs of minors in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and international best practices.
“Despite the significant efforts undertaken by Vietnam in law reform, there are critical legislative gaps remained to be addressed in order to ensure full compliance with the CRC," said UNICEF deputy representative Miller.
"I would like to urge for the leadership of the Ministry of Justice for continued law reform, especially to amend the age of the child under the Law on Children to 18 years old to ensure that boys and girls aged 16-17 years are provided with full protection and support.
"At the same time, we urge continued review and revision of the Penal Code to ensure that all forms of violence against children under 18 are penalized."