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Two-Thirds of Vietnamese Children Endure Physical Abuse by Family Members, Data Shows

A recent survey of children between the ages of one and 14 reveals conditions are not improving in regards to family members using violence as a form of discipline.

Results of the survey, which found 68% of children endure physical violence from relatives, were released at an event organized by the Management and Sustainable Development Institute (MSD) on December 13.

The numbers closely coincide with figures released last year claiming 68% of Vietnamese children suffer from mental and physical abuse from parents. Statistics from previous research done in November 2017 by the General Statistics Office also showed 74% of Vietnamese children aged two to 14 are punished physically by family members or nannies.

Worryingly, the number of child abuse cases has risen in recent years. The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee reported that from 2015 to 2019, there were 782 child abuse cases in the city, compared to 691 cases from 2011 to 2014.

Speaking at last week’s event, Ninh Thi Hong, permanent deputy chairwoman of the Vietnam Association for the Protection of Children’s Rights, gave reasons for the prevalence of violence directed at children. These include Vietnamese parents’ belief in the mantra “spare the rod and spoil the child,” as well as setting unrealistic expectations that result in violence when they are not met. 

Le Tran Kim Linh, a girl from Saigon, addressed the event's audience and stressed the need for parents and teachers to listen to students to truly understand them. “Please talk to us to help us solve our problems and educate children with love,” she said. 

A series of high-profile incidents involving violence against children has put a spotlight on the issue. In 2018, Vietnamese police recorded 1,547 child abuse cases, but experts suspect that the culture of secrecy around abuse represses reporting.

Risks for domestic abuse are also one criteria the Save the Children’s Fund uses when determining its End of Childhood rankings. Last year, Vietnam fell four places on the list to 96 out of 150 countries. 

Authorities are looking for remedies to the continued violence that shows little sign of improving. In 2017, the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs established a new 111 hotline to report abuse cases. The new number and the longer one it replaced have received more than three million calls since being founded in 2004. 

Moreover, earlier this year the municipal People’s Committee proposed to the Ministry of Justice that a police force specializing in child protection should be established, while regular training should also be provided to improve skills and knowledge among police officers, state officials, courts and judges when it comes to child abuse cases.

Saigon schools have also begun installing security cameras to safeguard against abuse that occurs outside the home.