The UN is seriously concerned about the magnitude of child sexual abuse in Viet Nam

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This photo is only for the purpose of illustration. Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2013\Truong Viet HungThis photo is only for the purpose of illustration. A social worker provides support to a girl in need of special protection.
Photo: UNICEF Viet Nam\2013\Truong Viet Hung

Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 17th March, 2017 - All children have the right to live free of violence, abuse and exploitation. While welcoming the actions taken by the Government of Viet Nam to investigate recent incidents involving the sexual abuse of children, the United Nations remains seriously concerned that child abuse is wide-spread and most incidents remain unreported or not adequately handled by authorities even when they are reported.

"Impunity of perpetrators of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation against children must end and all such acts must be investigated and prosecuted," said Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam. "The United Nations calls on relevant government authorities, as the primary duty bearer for ensuring the rights of children detailed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by Viet Nam in 1990), to protect all children from violence and abuse."

Approximately one in four children in Viet Nam is a victim of abuse and at least 1,300 cases of sexual violence against children were reported each year. The reported cases are only the tip of the iceberg and the true magnitude of sexual violence against girls and boys in Viet Nam is unknown since a majority of victims remain silent for their entire lives. Although official data are unavailable, estimates are consistently alarming.

Child abuse and exploitation have a far-reaching impact on development of the child and society. It may result in greater susceptibility to lifelong social, emotional and cognitive impairments, including suicide. Children who are abused, neglected, exploited or experience violence are more likely to be depressed and experience other types of mental health problems, to think about or attempt suicide, to have more physical symptoms (both medically explained and unexplained), and to engage in more high-risk behaviours than their non-abused counterparts.

It is vital to strengthen the child protection system in Viet Nam in order to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and exploitation. Viet Nam must continue to invest the necessary human and financial resources to protect children from all forms of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation, including the availability of professionally qualified Social Workers at all levels, also ensuring child-friendly access to justice and effective remedies and specialized assistance to victims. At the same time, Viet Nam must invest more in prevention, not only reacting to cases of child abuse after they happen, but stopping these cases before they happen.

Acknowledging that girls and boys face varying risks from different forms of sexual violence at different ages and in different situations, it is crucial also to incorporate a gender perspective in all policies adopted and actions taken to protect children. Further, ensuring the best interests of the child including the protection of the dignity, privacy and safety of the child should prevail throughout investigation and prosecution. Names or any information that may help to identify the children victims of sexual violence should without exception never be made public, even if parents agree.

Significantly, elimination of violence against children has been made a distinct target in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is high time to close the gap between international standards, political commitments and action.

"The United Nations remains ready to work closely with the Government of Viet Nam to make the laws stronger to prevent and respond to child abuse and sexual violence, to help strengthen the professional workers in child protection, and to develop specialised child protection services, such as trauma counselling, child-friendly and gender-sensitive investigation and prosecution," added Mr Malhotra. "We also stand ready to help develop ways for children to speak out and report in safety and confidence cases of abuse and to understand how to protect themselves."

The United Nations encourages anyone who is victim or witness of violence against children to use the national child protection hotline 1800 1567, where they can receive advice and support.

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 The Mission of the United Nations in Viet Nam

The United Nations, in partnership with the government and people ofViet Nam, works to ensure that all Vietnamese people enjoy an increasingly healthy and prosperous life with greater human dignity and expanded choices. Collectively and through its individual agencies, the United Nations cares and creates opportunities for the poor and most vulnerable, and for youth, to whom the future belongs.

In accordance with the United Nations Charter and Millennium Declaration, the United Nations advances the principles of equality and social justice, while providing impartial advice, technical expertise, access to global knowledge and local experience to meet Viet Nam's development challenges.