Viet Nam Penal Code gaps hinder prosecution of travelling child sex offenders
Hanoi (Viet Nam), 2 November 2012 - Inconsistencies and gaps in Viet Nam's Penal Code - including the lack of any clause directly governing child sex tourism crimes - hinder the effective investigation and prosecution of crimes by travelling child sex offenders, according to a recently-concluded national survey of the country's investigative officers, prosecutors, judges and lawyers.
Although 80 per cent of respondents felt that crimes by travelling child sex offenders were increasing In Viet Nam, many did not understand what child sex tourism is because there was no clear definition of the crime in national statutes.
"This hinders agencies trying to define the scope of 'child sex tourism' and makes it harder for them to collect statistics about these crimes, weakening effective crime prevention," said Nguyen Van Dung, deputy director of the Justice Ministry's Criminal Law Division, at a Hanoi workshop to announce the survey's results.
The survey, conducted by the Ministry of Justice with support from UNODC-INTERPOL Project Childhood (Protection Pillar), assessed the practical implementation of Penal Code provisions on child sexual abuse in travel and tourism and other crimes against juveniles. It also reviewed Viet Nam's legal framework in order to make recommendations to make it congruent with international laws and standards.
"The sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism is a significant concern in Viet Nam and throughout Southeast Asia," said Ms. Zhuldyz Akisheva, UNODC Viet Nam Country Manager. "Surveys like this are essential to ensure that law enforcement and judicial efforts to combat this are effective - and lead to prosecutions with harsher penalties for offenders."
Operating under the framework of the Vietnamese National Child Protection Program (2011-2015), Project Childhood (Protection Pillar) works with the Ministry of Justice to identify gaps in Viet Nam's legislative frameworks.
"A key Project Childhood (Protection Pillar) activity is to conduct national surveys and to use the results to make recommendations that strengthen Vietnamese legislative frameworks to protect victims and more effectively combat travelling child sex offenders," said Ms. Van Do, UNODC National Project Officer.
One key survey finding was that Viet Nam's ability to cooperate with other countries to prevent and fight the sexual abuse of children was hindered because the Penal Code and other child-related laws defined children as people under 16 year of age, while thec basic international standard - which UNODC recommends - defines them as persons under 18 years of age.
In addition, survey respondents pointed out sentencing inconsistencies in Penal Code regulations governing sexual abuse crimes. Article 112 of the Penal Code, for example, has lighter sentences for rape crimes involving children under 13 years of age than for children 13-16 years of age.
The survey was conducted across Viet Nam from August - September 2012, at workshops in nine provinces across Viet Nam. Detailed questionnaires were completed at the workshops by investigative officers, prosecutors, judges and lawyers from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Criminal Police Divisions, People's Procuracies, People's Courts, Border Armies, Lawyer Associations, Fatherland fronts, Youth Unions, and provincial Women's Unions.
Viet Nam is currently preparing a draft Plan on the amendment of the Penal Code (2012-2015). A joint UNODC-Ministry of Justice comprehensive legal analysis report incorporating the survey results will be submitted to the Drafting Committee for approval in 2013.
Project Childhood is a $7.5 million Australian AID (AusAID) funded initiative to combat the sexual exploitation of children - mainly in the travel and tourism sectors - in the Greater Mekong sub-region. The project focuses on Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand and Viet Nam and builds on Australia's long-term support for programs that better protect children and prevent their abuse.
Project Childhood is being implemented in two complementary pillars - the Protection Pillar, a partnership between UNODC and INTERPOL, and the Prevention Pillar, implemented by World Vision.