Ban Van Giang, who was recently sentenced to 13 years in prison for child rape, told police that pornography inspired him to commit the crime.
The Hanoi People’s Court said they'd gone easy on the 22-year-old man from Tuyen Quang because Giang is a member of an ethnic minority tribe and suffers from a limited mental capacity.
Experts are calling for more action to tackle child sexual abuse, which they describe as an increasingly prevalent and complex problem.
According to the verdict, the Dao ethnic man began working as an aprentice at a furniture workshop in Hanoi’s Me Linh District in November 2013. After receiving some payment, he bought a cell phone and downloaded several pornographic films.
On December 10, 2013, he lured a six year old neighbor girl into his room on the pretense that they would watch television, then he raped the child.
Later that day, the girl told her mother who called the police.
According to the Ministry of Public Security, about 5,600 cases of child sexual abuse were reported between 2006-2011
Child rape accounts for nearly 66 percent of the country’s annual average of 1,000 sexual assaults, according to the ministry.
The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs estimates there are about 16,000 highly disadvantaged children in the city, of which many are at risk of suffering violence, labor exploitation and sexual abuse.
From December 2010 to November 15, 2013, city authorities recorded 355 cases of child sexual abuse--most of the victims were girls.
Tran Minh Hai, director of the Ho Chi Minh City-based NGO Tuong Lai Center for Health Education and Community Development, said Vietnam's child sexual abuse problem is becoming “more complicated in both the type and number of cases.”
“Relevant ministries have released statistics, but that’s only for reported cases. The actual number is much higher because, in many cases, the family of the victims chose to conceal the cases,” he told Thanh Nien News.
Hai said many parents are not aware of the threat of child sexual abuse and have not taken preventive measures.
“Many members of the victims' families have very limited knowledge about how to protect their children.”
“For example, some parents go to work and leave a daughter of, say, nine years old at home alone. Someone like that is certainly is an easy target for violence or sexual abuse.”
In some cases, the culprit is a family member or a relative of the victim.
Tien Giang police arrested 28-year-old Nguyen Huu Phuoc for allegedly raping his eight-year-old niece on June 5.
Police said the girl’s mother asked Duong Thi Be, of My Tho Town, to watch the girl when she went to work.
On June 4, Phuoc came to Be’s house and get his niece but did not tell Be, who was cooking in the kitchen.
Be called the police after she went to Phuoc’s house and found the man abusing his niece.
Who to blame?
Hai, the Tuong Lai Center director, said that in addition to a lack of parental awareness, easy access to internet pornography is a major reason for child sexual abuse.
“Normally, many adults can watch “black” movies and control themselves. But when they are drunk or unstable, they may engage in child sexual abuse or rape,” he said.
According to Can Tho-based psychologist, Ngo Thanh Thuan, the rise in child sex abuse reflects a larger moral collapse as more cases involving younger and younger victims and more numerous violations continue to be reported.
He also said that internet pornography has become more widely available and increased the threat of child sexual abuse.
“When I ask many young farmers and day laborers who work away from home if there is ‘something’ in their phones, eight of every ten people answer by asking if I want to watch or copy it.”
“Porn is easy to download to computers and smart phones, which are becoming very popular now,” he said.
Vietnam currently has more than 39.7 million internet users, according to Internet Live Stats. The country has more than 90 million people.
Meanwhile, Vietnam is expected to have one smart phone user in every four citizens, increasing the number of smart phones in use in the local market to 20 million units this year, according to market research and consulting company Spire.
Thuan said that many children have also been affected by pornographic content and are willing to engage in sex without being aware that they are actually being abused.
“It has a terrible affect on the physical and mental development of the child and will affect their future,” he said.
Thuan also criticized insufficient government efforts to raise public awareness of the risks of child sex abuse.
Nguyen Thi Thuy, manager of the HCMC-based Thao Dan Social Protection Center, said that there should be a mechanism to protect children that involves government agencies and social organizations.
“The government should invest to ensure the continuous operation of models of protecting vulnerable children,” she said.
Tran Cong Binh, UNICEF child protection specialist, said campaigns for child rights in Vietnam have seen “encouraging” results but many challenges and difficulties remain.
“Child rights have not been fully implemented. Many disparities in this field exist between different regions and ethnicities,” he said.
Binh called for the government to clarify the role of relevant agencies to ensure thorough enforcement of regulations for the protection of children and better coordination among their operations.
“There should be specialized services in early detection and intervention when children face the threat of abuse.”
“Besides, relevant services should be set up for communities in need.”
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