Nguyen Hai Huu, Head of the Child Protection and Care Department of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, talks to online newspaper Vietnam Plus about changes to childcare legislative protection.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has recently announced that 75 per cent of Vietnamese children from 2 to 14 years old are violently punished. What do you think about this?
This statistic from UNICEF is not incorrect, but we need to look at what it actually means. What this means is that a child is likely to have received some form of violent punishment over a period of 12 years.
In fact, in Viet Nam, there are 3,000 to 4,000 cases of child abuse and violence every year, and we have to admit that this is still high. The Government and National Assembly understand that this problem is very serious. We can judge from this figure that each day there are more than ten cases of child abuse or violence happening in the country.
What do you feel are the reasons for this child abuse and violence?
It's very important that parents and local authorities have a proper awareness of child violence. In many places, parents still think that they have the right to use violence to teach their children. Even in big cities there are still mothers who hit their children if they don't want to eat.
We must also consider that when child violence happens, it may not be reported to authorities. We can't issue warnings or impose other types of punishment in cases that are not reported.
Can you tell our readers the situation of child sexual abuse in Viet Nam?
Each year Viet Nam records about 1,000 cases of child sexual abuse. And this is only the reported number. So it can be much higher in reality.
There are families who do not want to report their children' cases to the authorities, so we have only been able to enforce legal punishment in reported rape cases. There are cases legally considered sexual abuse of children, but the victims' families do not want to bring them to court.
We have an adequate legal system to deal with child abuse and violence, but enforcing the law is another question. We also lack childcare workers, especially those experienced in child protection.
Many countries have one social worker per 200 or 250 children. When we don't have enough workers to care for children, our ability to protect them is limited. If we have sufficient social workers in this field, the rate of child abuse and violence will certainly reduce.
However, the involvement of parents is also of crucial importance. We can see child abuse and violence everywhere, but in areas where parents or guardians do not care enough about their children, the risk is higher.
How will parents' responsibility be addressed by in the law?
We will include parents' responsibility in caring for and protecting children in the upcoming amended Law on Child Protection, Care and Education. If it is approved by the National Assembly, parents' negligence in caring for a child will be covered by legislation.
For instance, in the United Kingdom, if a small child is found playing alone in a playground, local police will take him or her home and fine the parent US$100.
I think that if such matters are covered by the law, we will have more detailed regulations to define "negligence" as also due punishment for it.