Concluding a three-day visit to Viet Nam, a United Nations envoy has called on the government, civil society and all stakeholders to take united action to eliminate violence against children.
“Violence against children also has high financial costs for society through its long-lasting impact on child development, and for the budgets of the health, social welfare and criminal justice systems,” said Marta Santos Pais, the UN Special Representative on Violence against Children, in her meeting with government officials.
“By investing in prevention, we can strengthen Viet Nam’s human and social capital,” she added.
Ms. Santos Pais said the recently adopted Child Law and the strong network of social workers, supported by human and financial resources can pave the way for a strong collaboration where everyone can help transform this law into action to eliminate violence against children.
There are an estimated 3.3 million children in need of special protection and particularly vulnerable to violence, which accounts for about 12 per cent of the total child population in Viet Nam.
Countless numbers of children are vulnerable to neglect, abuse, trafficking and sexual exploitation. Children with disabilities remain particularly vulnerable and are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence, neglect and sexual abuse than their peers. Over 1.7 million are child workers, 172,500 are without parental care, 21,000 live on the street, 12,000 children are involved with the justice system, 2,381 are living with HIV/AIDS, and 1,067 use drugs.
Estimates on violence against children in Viet Nam are based on the definition of a child as under 16 years of age compared with the international norm of persons under 18 years of age.
These figures almost certainly underestimate the number of children in need of care and protection. Data on violence against children in Viet Nam is patchy, and as in many other countries government estimates based on administrative data are generally far below those based on independent surveys conducted by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics.
“If we witness a child being a victim of violence, we should take action and report it to the authorities,” added Ms. Santos Pais.
In addition to physical violence, children are increasingly exposed to the danger of being sexually abused or taken advantage of online. A recent poll in Viet Nam has shown that 41 per cent of young people aged 18 years old have witnessed their friends participate in risky behaviours online.
Preventing and responding to violence against children is a high priority for the UN, as the new Sustainable Development Goals include a specific target, 16.2, to end all forms of violence against children.
Within the framework of the new One UN Strategic Plan 2017-2021, the UN remains committed to supporting the Government in its efforts to end all forms of violence against children, including by strengthening the national child protection system, changing perceptions and attitudes of society towards violence against children, and to encourage children and the wider population to speak up when they witness such violence in their environment.
During her visit, Ms. Santos Pais delivered a keynote speech at the opening of the 4th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Children Forum in Ha Noi, held a dialogue with the child delegates at the Forum, and visited the Social Work Center in Da Nang, which is supported by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).