Đặng Hoa Nam, director-general of the Department of Child Affairs (under the Ministry of Labours, Invalid and Social Affairs), spoke to Hà Nội Mới (New Hà Nội) newspaper about child protection at the grassroots level.
What is your opinion on the violence and abuse against children in the current climate?
In recent years, authorities, families and communities have joined in taking care of children and creating favourable conditions for them to live, learn, and play in a safe, healthy environment. However, child abuse and violence still persist in multiple areas, and a majority of the cases were caused by someone close to the child.
In 2021 alone, the national hotline for child protection (Hotline 111) received more than 500,000 calls on child-related issues, of which 35,000 were for advice and support, an 11 per cent increase compared to 2020.
Following information screening, Hotline 111 has contacted the authorities to intervene in a total of 1,257 cases. It is worth noting that with 67 per cent of the children who suffer such abuse, it comes from inside their families.
As revealed by the Ministry of Public Security, there are approximately 2,000 severe cases of child abuse in the country every year. A majority of the abusers were parents or step-parents. These are problematic numbers that need to be addressed and prevented.
In addition to the existing legal system, on December 31, 2021, the Government approved Decree No. 130/2021/NĐ-CP on handling administrative violations, regarding child and social protection and support. What are the new points included in this document?
The decree presents numerous new points regarding child protection, stating that actions that cause harm to children will result in punishment. For example, people who isolate, banish or use punitive actions against children, causing them physical and mental harm will be given a fine of VNĐ10 to 20 million (US$440 to 880). Parents and caretakers who intentionally abandon children will be fined VNĐ20 to 25 million (US$880 to 1,100).
In particular, strict punishment will be imposed for not reporting, not providing, or hiding information on children at risk of exploitation, violence and abuse; as well as not reporting on abusive behaviours, or failing to promptly intervene on these cases.
In your opinion, for regulations on child protection to be applied in real life, what is required of local authorities?
As I said before, a majority of the cases stem from families, therefore children's guardians must first abide by the law. In order to do this, parents and caretakers must be patient, spend time with their children, proactively learn and hone their parenting skills, and avoid using punishment as a means of teaching.
For those living nearby, it is advised against thinking "đèn nhà ai, nhà nấy rạng" (each family only cares about their own affairs). They need to exercise their civic responsibilities in child protection.
According to the law, identities of informants must be kept confidential. In the case where verification proves that the information is not correct, the whistleblower will not be charged with slander or providing false information. Therefore, when detecting or suspecting that a child is suffering from violence, abuse or exploitation, people need to speak up and report it.
For the authorities, in any circumstances, agencies and units need to intervene with urgency and the highest sense of responsibility.
Many people don't know who they should report child-related issues to. Can you elaborate on this?
In case of emergency, people can call the national hotline on child protection at 111 or the police at 113.
Apart from receiving information, Hotline 111 also continues to monitor and give advice. If the authorities have yet to intervene in a case, Hotline 111 will urge them to.
In addition to these measures, people can also report through the hotlines of local organisations and authorities, to investigation units, and departments responsible for child protection.
Overall, Decree No. 130/2021/NĐ-CP and the existing legal framework on child protection when applied will contribute to protecting children from the grassroots level, increasing deterrence, and preventing abusive behaviours towards children.
For instance, in the recent case of the 8-year-old girl in HCM City , if the people living nearby had reported earlier, not only might the child have been saved, but the father and the 'stepmother' might also have been subjected to less severe sentences. — VNS
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