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Vietnam to Have Mandatory Sexual Abuse Prevention Classes for First Graders

Elementary schools across the country will provide mandatory classes to educate students on how to avoid and report sexual abuse.

The Ministry of Education and Training recently announced the program for first graders which includes the teaching of the "underwear rule" which explains to students that they should not "let anyone touch parts of your body usually covered by underwear unless you need to be examined by a doctor." Lessons must include manuals with at least two illustrations: one depicting how to protect oneself from inappropriate contact and the other how to respond, such as fleeing and telling loved ones, if such contact occurs.

Bui Thi Hai Yen, vice principal of Hong Ha Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City, told Thanh Nien that the new initiative will take effect on May 25 this year, so her school is preparing materials to conduct the anti-abuse classes next school year. Yen added that there are similar workshops in the curriculum, but they are for children in third, fourth and fifth grades.

Sexual abuse of children is a major problem in Vietnam and only getting worse with as many as one in four children abused. The Ministry of Public Security reported nearly 1,300 cases of sexual violence against children in 2018. A representative of Binh Tan District’s Women’s Union cautions that such numbers are much lower than the real situation because most of the crimes don't get reported.

“Many incidents remain unreported as families of victims fear their children’s dignity and privacy will be affected for their entire lives if the incidents are made public,” explained Nhu Thi Minh Nguyet, director of the Ministry of Public Security’s Police Political Bureau Department.

The most common perpetrators are people who know the victim, such as teachers, school security officials, relatives and neighbors. With that in mind, the nation has established a hotline for people to report sexual abuse and operates 116 public child protection services centers in addition to hundreds of non-profit organizations and entities. 

Not everyone agrees the efforts are enough, however. Vietnam scored especially poorly on the first global index measuring nations' response to child sex abuse, as compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Ranked 37th out of 40 nations, Vietnam was rated far below its regional peers. The country, however, has pushed back against the study because the organization has no office in Vietnam and relies on dubious metrics.

Recent anecdotal evidence also points to the problem's perversity. Last month, a man molested a young girl on a Saigon elevator, and earlier, a Binh Thuan teacher was arrested for molesting eight female students, while a teacher in Lao Cai Province was taken into custody for allegedly impregnating his 14-year-old student. The incident in a Saigon elevator is especially high-profile as it was caught on camera; the molester has since been prosecuted by the HCMC Police Department.

[Photo via Ngan Hang Phap Luat]

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