Viet Nam - Child Rights Coalition Asia
Vietnam has been one of the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. But while it appears bent in filling out the gaps towards its economic boom, such will is missing in the country’s coming to terms with its human rights record, including that of children.
Despite the aggressive efforts of international agencies, which are among the few that are allowed to operate in the country, the warm bodies of children are still fodder to the flesh trade. The limited space for civil society engagement has also left government programs for children wanting. In 2006, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern that child prostitution and sex tourism are increasing problems in the country and that 10 per cent of people who are working in sex industry are children.
The booming sex industry has had implications on the high rate of HIV AIDS even among children, leading to some more forms of discrimination. According to an NGO report submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, around 6,900 children infected with HIV and AIDS within the period of 2001 to 2005. The said report also said that in 2003 the number of children belonging to families affected by HIV and AIDS is estimated at 283,667.
The government actually has some social relief programs for the homeless and indigents. Vietnam’s Decree No. 07/2000/Nd-Cp of 2000 (On Social Relief Policies) aims to take care of shelter residents who shall be sent back to their localities for integration. Transit stations or facilities operated by the government would have been the ideal space to restore human dignity with rehabilitation, training assistance, and access to basic rights to shelter, education, family, and community. However, reality among Hanoi’s street children tells otherwise.
No conclusive statistics on the detained “homeless” Vietnamese are available for confirmation since international human rights organizations are not allowed to conduct researches or independent reviews on-site. Nevertheless, reports on the street-sweeping activities of the government are documented by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in 2006 through a report, Children of the Dust: Abuse of Hanoi Street Children in Detention.
The report reveals that “rescued” street children of Hanoi have homes in provincial locales. They came to the city to work but were caught by non-discriminating authorities. What awaits the children in shelters are neither psychological intervention nor rehabilitation. Social relief beneficiaries under the government’s “care”—to include children—become detainees under the conditions they are subjected to: Within overcrowded rooms that are locked almost 24 hours per day. Arrested children are beaten by the staff and are not presented with options apart from detention.
Vietnam’s key export industry has also not spared children to gain huge profit margins. The Understanding Children’s Work (UCW)—the “Inter-Agency Research Cooperation Project” among the International Labor Organization (ILO), UNICEF, and World Bank Group—made a report on child labor in Vietnam in 2009. The report includes a calculation of children’s economic activity by work sector, showing that agriculture involves 83 percent of Vietnamese working children, services with 8.2 percent, manufacturing with 7.9 percent and others, 0.9 percent.
These are just a few issues faced by Vietnam’s children but they are indicative of gaps that the government must confront not with ambivalence but with a firm resolve. This can begin by allowing information to freely circulate and civil society organizations to establish themselves. These immediate imperatives do not need as many years on the drawing board. Instead these should be done with the same boldness in making Vietnam open for business.
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrmination
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
CRC Third and Fourth Periodic State Report (C/C/VNM/3-4), 25 November 2011.
CRC Concluding Observations on 3rd and 4th Periodic Report (CRC/C/VNM/CO/3-4), 15 June 2012