Photo by Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon
The United Nations pledges to work with the Vietnamese government to provide care and protection for the country’s at-risk children - a message delivered by Marta Santos Pais, special representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children during her recent three-day visit to Vietnam.
Pais met with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam on her first day and also attended the fourth installment of the ASEAN Children Forum in Hanoi as she worked on the promotion of preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against children.
Children in Vietnam are particularly vulnerable to many forms of violence, both physically and via the internet, namely the persistence of cross-border trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation and child labor, as well as the overuse of detention of child offenders, said Pais at a press conference held on June 22.
Pais said violence against children has high financial costs for society through its long-lasting impacts on child development, and for the budgets of the health, social welfare and criminal justice systems. "By investing in prevention we can strengthen Vietnam’s human and social capital,” she said.
According to the UN, there are an estimated 3.3 million children in need of special protection and particularly vulnerable to violence, which accounts for about 12 percent of the total child population in Vietnam. Countless numbers of children are vulnerable to neglect, abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Children with disabilities remain particularly vulnerable and are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence, neglect and sexual abuse than their peers. Over 1.7 million are child workers, 172,500 are without parental care, 21,000 live on the street, 12,000 children are involved with the justice system, 2,381 are living with HIV/AIDS and 1,067 use drugs.
Children are increasingly exposed to the danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online. A recent poll in Vietnam shows that 41 percent of young people aged under 18 have witnessed their friends participate in risky behavior online, the UN reported.
Meanwhile, the number of child sex abuse cases in Vietnam has been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years. According to reports delivered at a conference to summarize the five-year Child Protection Program from 2011-2015 in Vietnam, there were over 8,200 child abuse cases with 9,920 victims, up by 258 children compared to the previous five years.
On May 12, the Bangkok-based NGO End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) released a study on child sexual abuse, naming Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as new child sex tourism destinations. It said sex tourism has spread around the world to countries that were previously inaccessible as tourism has boomed over the past 20 years and travel has become cheaper.
Disagreeing with the statement, Ngo Hoai Chung, a senior official of Vietnam’s Administration of Tourism, stated firmly that child sex tourism does not exist in Vietnam, mentioning that Vietnam has detected only a few cases of child abuse by foreign tourists and expats. Notable cases include Gary Glitter, a pedophile who was sentenced last year in Britain to 16 years in jail and a Canadian man named Vadim Scott Benderman who was jailed for four years last Janurary in Vietnam for sexually abusing homeless teenage boys.