Sale of Children,
& Child Pornography
- a complementary report from NGOs in Viet Nam
to the Vietnamese government’s report on OPSC,
At the request of the NGO Group for the Convention on the Rights of the Child in
Geneva, a group of international NGOs and local organizations working on different
aspects of child abuse in Viet Nam has gathered to contribute our knowledge, experi-
ences and information regarding first and foremost the situation on Sale of Children,
Child Prostitution and Child Pornography in Viet Nam.
The work on the report has been coordinated by Save the Children Sweden and is to a
very large extent based on the input from the following organizations: Save the Children
UK, CARE International in Vietnam, Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gen-
der-Adolescents (CSAGA), Oxfam Quebec, Plan in Viet Nam, Research Center for
Family Health and Community Development (CEFACOM), World Vision, and Viet-
namese media. Part of the content is also built on reports from other INGOs not taking
active part in putting the report together.
It is our sincere hope that this complementary report will support the process of im-
proving the lives of girls and boys and women in Viet Nam
Ha Noi, April 8, 2006
Save the Children Sweden in Viet Nam
The process and this report
Initially it was assumed that many INGOs in Viet Nam are working on these issues. How-
ever, this was not proved to be the case, at least in terms of projects/programs which ex-
plicitly target these issues. Instead they tend to be referred to as “crosscutting issues” or is-
sues which are partly or fully mainstreamed into other projects/programs. Since there is
no task force or working group among INGOs on these issues in Viet Nam, it also proved
difficult to identify relevant organizations to inform this report, which is why the report
may have missed out important information from other actors in this field. It should also
be mentioned that there was no time to do any specific survey, nor consult with children
them selves about their own views.
Our report focuses on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
only, since none of our organizations, based on the knowledge we have, have any ongoing
work regarding issues related to Children in Armed Conflict. The Government’s report
mentions that the consequences and sufferings from the American War are still affecting
many children in Viet Nam, which we believe is highly relevant, but clearly Viet Nam is
not a country in armed conflict.
This report is not only based on a review of program and survey reports made by the con-
tributing organizations, but also reports from other organizations working on the issue as
well as on media coverage, especially by Vietnamese newspapers and radio.
The submitting of this report is based on the conviction that we, as non-governmental or-
ganizations, can provide, to some extent, complementary information to the report sub-
mitted by the Government of Viet Nam. It is our hope that this information as well as our
competence and respective programs will support the Government’s efforts to come to
terms with the violations of children’s rights generally and these specific rights violations
We recognize that some of the recommendations put forward herein may reflect some ig-
norance regarding all the measures taken by the Government. In that case we hope that
these recommendations will be perceived rather as a reinforcement of the importance of
these measures which may have already been adopted by government.
Upon request this report has been shared with the Government’s Commission on Popula-
tion, Family and Children (CPFC). See appendix 1, cover letter to CPFC.
Viet Nam with its population of about 81 million people (by 2003), of which an estimated 40
% are children (under 18 years old) ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
(CRC) in 1990, the second country globally, and the two Optional Protocols on the Sexual
Exploitation of Children and Children in Armed Conflict in 2001.
Since the late 1990’ies and into the new millennium, the Vietnamese economy has developed
rapidly. Poverty has been reduced at an impressive rate and all this has positively affected
many children’s lives enabling them to fulfil their basket of rights more easily. However,
many, including the Government of Viet Nam, are concerned about the uneven distribution
of the increasing financial resources and even more so about the growing gap between rich
It should be recognized that the Government of Viet Nam has made important and specific
efforts to adapt its own laws and regulations to harmonize with the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child as well as complement these with an abundance of other international
agreements and documents. This has also been recognized by the UN Committee on the
Rights of the Child in their Concluding Observations (2003), although the Committee also
“remains concerned that domestic laws do not yet fully comply with the provisions and
principles of the Convention”.
The Government’s of Viet Nam report
By 2005, Viet Nam submitted the second National Report on the Implementation of the
Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and
the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
In general, we find that the report put a lot of emphasis on presenting comprehensive lists of
laws and policies relating to the issues in question, which also shows that the Government of
Viet Nam has made considerable efforts to harmonize its own legal framework with the Op-
tional Protocols. The report also presents, but to a lesser degree, how these laws have been
implemented as well as facts about the actual situation.
We believe that the report as such would have benefited from:
A view of the child not only as a victim, but also as a human being who can actively par-
ticipate in preventing, dialoguing, communicating, reporting and protecting her/himself
given the relevant attention and support.
A paragraph on how victims and perpetrators were treated and rehabilitated in both ru-
ral and urban areas, since victims of sexual exploitation are usually people in rural areas.
A presentation of the possible regulations or requirements regarding the obligation to
report on child sexual exploitation for professionals, who work in hospitals, schools,
recreation centres, entertainment places, orphanages and other institutions.
Better statistics to have a comprehensive picture of the situation in Viet Nam; the statis-
tics presented are not up date, i e some data is from between 1991 to 2002 and 1998 to
2002 (p 16, p 19) while the statistics figures given should be between 2002 and Decem-
Finally we believe that the quality of a report like this would clearly benefit from coordina-
tion of relevant governmental bodies such as the Ministry of Police, the Ministry of Labour,
Invalids and Social Affairs, National Statistics Office and possibly others.
General conclusions and recommendations
Viet Nam has a good law base regarding Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child
Pornography that ensures the protection of children. However, we believe that the en-
forcement of the law has to be enhanced in order to improve a true protection of chil-
dren. Initially, the Viet Nam Government may consider making a comprehensive statis-
tics on arrests and convictions to evaluate the law enforcement efforts.
A coordinating body on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography led
by the Committee of Population, Family and Children should be established. The task-
force group should include representatives of CPFC, Ministry of Police, UN and se-
lected NGOs. There should be a plan for periodical meetings to share information and
to coordinate the combating of Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornog-
Communications activities on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornogra-
phy should be developed to reach the most remote areas of the country where there is a
higher risk for children of being drawn into exploitation. Awareness-raising on laws and
regulations should be done, not only for citizens, but also authorities from province to
commune level since a lack of adequate knowledge on laws sometimes means that au-
thorities handle cases improperly.
The Government should take measures to ensure that children become actors who ac-
tively participate in preventing, dialoguing, reporting cases, caring and healing for vic-
tims regarding the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
Sale of children
It is probably fair to assume that the number of cases related to child trafficking for sexual
purposes in Viet Nam and its seriousness has been increasing in recent years as the Gov-
ernment itself recognizes. However, it is not possible to provide clear data on actual preva-
lence rates. One of the problems is that many figures are mentioned and these are, at times,
contradictory. Some examples of figures mentioned by Vietnamese media and institutions
According to sources from the Ministry of Police, the Southeast Asian nation witnesses
around some hundreds of children trafficked abroad for sexual purposes (forced to
marry local men or pushed into brothels) each year. However, the real figure is almost
certainly much higher. (Youth, Sep 30, 2005; Liberated Saigon, Sep 30, 2005)
According to another report from the Ministry of Police, the police in seven northern
border provinces uncovered 46 woman and children trafficking cases in the first half of
2005, arresting 75 involved, identifying 109 victims and rescuing 61 girls. (Culture, Aug
22, 2005; Viet Nam Law, Aug 18, 2005; VNA, Aug 19, 2005)
A survey conducted by the Ministry of Police in 16 out of the total 64 cities and prov-
inces across Viet Nam shows that up to 1,758 women and children were trafficked
abroad in 2003. Out of these, 263 victims were of a very young age, including eleven
children under the age of ten.
During 1991-1999, around 22,000 women and children were trafficked to China via
northern borders and twelve thousand were brought to Cambodia. (Tuoi Tre – Youth,
March 26, 2003)
In a report of the General Department of Police, from 1994-Sept 2004, the police iden-
tified and investigated 2,458 cases of women and children trafficking with about 400
perpetrators. (Tuoi Tre - Youth March 24, 2005)
Around 5,000 Vietnamese women and children are being sexually exploited in Cambo-
dia. Each year, Cambodia receives up to 200 children from Viet Nam and many of the
female children were impelled to brothels whereas others were forced to have sexual re-
lations with foreigners. (Vnexpress, Nov 17, 2004)
The Steering Committee for Prevention and Fighting against Women and Children Traf-
ficking revealed on January 20, 2006 that around 6,000 Vietnamese women and children
were brought abroad for prostitution in 2005. (Tuoi Tre - Youth Jan 21, 2006)
Conclusion and recommendation
The obviously very disparate knowledge about the prevalence is unsatisfactory and points to
a need to improve the knowledge about the situation. This is critical for the Government in
order to allocate adequately human and financial resources to more effectively cope with the
Nature of cases
Previous years often saw small-scale cases mostly within the nation, but the crime now is
committed by well-organized and trans-national trafficking rings. (Viet Nam Net, Dec 18,
According to the Ministry of Public Security, almost all victims are from poor and illiterate
households in rural areas, mainly in 14 provinces bordering China and Cambodia.
In the northern region, the victims have often been brought to China, and then maybe to
Hong Kong and Taiwan, via small tracks or border gates in Lang Son, Lao Cai and Quang
Ninh while in southern and Mekong Delta provinces, the girls have been sold to brothels in
Cambodia or to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia via the neighbouring nation. (Vnexpress,
June 24, 2004)
Several girls were even offered as a kind of goods in foreign television channels or labour
bazaars, said major general Cao Ngoc Oanh, Deputy Head of Police Department under the
Ministry of Police. (Tuoi Tre – Youth, Jan 21, 2006)
Regarding the victims exposed to sexual exploitation in the homeland, the sources said that a
large number of victims, mainly from rural areas, have been enticed and forced to work in
restaurants, karaoke bars, café venues in urban areas to provide sexual services to rich de-
praved men. (Tuoi Tre – Youth, Jan 21, 2006)
A survey carried out by Save the Children UK in Dong Thap province from Jan to April
2005 showed that children at the age of 15-18 years old are usually the victims of trafficking
for sexual exploitation. Most of the children were from a poor family or living in an unstable
family and in most cases these families have very low education. The report also shows that
people in this area don’t know much about children trafficking and are therefore easy targets.
Conclusion and recommendation
As important as it is to know the quantitative scope of the problem, as important it is to
know and understand the range and nature of the reasons why mostly women and children
are forced or lured into trafficking. We recommend that more efforts should be done in or-
der enhance the knowledge about high-risk groups, specifically in sensitive geographical ar-
eas as well as about the root causes. We believe that better coordination between and within
Governmental structures; between these structures and civil society organisations as well as
with neighbouring countries would benefit the combating of sale of children. We also be-
lieve that individuals – children and women – already victims of these violations of their
rights and dignity are an invaluable source of information, in terms of why, where, when,
how, by whom and not the least in terms of what could be done to prevent this from hap-
pening in the first place.
Laws and law enforcement
In general, Viet Nam has been giving special attention to build a legal system for the preven-
tion and suppression of human trafficking in general and women and children trafficking
particularly (Handbook on Law and Policy related to prevention and combating trafficking
in Women and Children, SCUK and Women’s Union 2005). However, if the Government
of Viet Nam decide to ratify to the international instrument – Optional Protocol to Traffick-
ing to the Transitional Organized Crime Convention - it would be necessary to better im-
prove some areas of current Laws and Policies. Further details can be found in Ministry of
Justice, UNICEF and UNODC report Assessment of the Legal System in Viet Nam in
Comparison with the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and Protocols
of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, March 2004.
The term “trafficking in person” is not used frequently in Viet Nam but mainly “trafficking
in women and children”. However, the definition is not really comprehensive (Summary Re-
port on National Training Need Assessment on Counter Trafficking, IOM, UNICEF,
SCUK, ILO and IOM, 2005 ) hence there are cases of trafficking still not brought to trial as
case of trafficking. There are some cases where traffickers are not prosecuted or prosecuted
for “bringing people cross border illegally” (Participatory Action Report, SCUK 2003 and
In 2004, Plan in Viet Nam conducted a review on Child Protection legal documents and the
results showed that Viet Nam has a comprehensive legal framework, laws and policies relat-
ing to the three main issues in focus of this report. It also shows the Government’s efforts in
the implementation of the Optional Protocol.
Conclusion and recommendation
An important aspect on law enforcement is also the legal aid provided to both victims and
offenders. It is also an ongoing work in Viet Nam to provide free legal aid and some of the
prioritised groups are woman and children. Much of the structures seem to be in place, but
still a lot of work needs to be done on the quality of the aid. It must be remembered that
many of the woman and children exposed to trafficking have gone through traumatic experi-
ences and thus need, not only legal aid in the technical sense, but also a very sensitive aid and
support, which should be provided by people skilled in issues of trauma and counselling.
The legal aid system still has problems in terms of reaching out to the more remote areas of
Viet Nam, which is an issue that needs to be addressed.
Initiatives and actors
CPFC, MOLISA and other functional bodies of Viet Nam from central government have
cooperated with INGOs and local NGOs such as Save the Children UK, Save the Children
Sweden, Plan in Viet Nam, Oxfam Quebec, CARE International in Vietnam, CSAGA and
CEFACOM to have programs to protect the children and enhance children’s capacity to
avoid exploitation in the big cities of Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Da Nang and in a number
of provinces. In most provinces of Viet Nam, there are programs to prevent children and
The media has also played an important role in preventing the sale of children. They have
published articles on the issue that help raise the awareness of the public. The Voice of Viet
Nam (national radio), broadcasts a program on social issues that help raise the awareness of
the general public regarding women’s, children’s and labourer’s issues.
Some counselling services for victims and perpetrators have been started. CSAGA, a local
NGO, provide counselling on many psychological issues including child abuse and exploita-
tion. Plan in Viet Nam and Viet Nam CPFC have set up a toll free Child Help Line working
14 hours daily since May 2004 through which children in general and especially children in
need of special protection get counselling and can be connected to services in case they need
help. The helpline receives around 50 to 200 calls per day. The Minister of CPFC has issued
a document urging all provincial CPFC to take action to help children calling the helpline.
However, the cooperation between agencies and government bodies need to be strength-
ened to ensure that victims get timely support and access to rehabilitation if needed. CE-
FACOM has also provided psychological support directly to victims of sexual abuse/ exploi-
tation and their family members. Oxfam Quebec in partnership with provincial Women’s
Unions and Foreign Affairs Department have set up Support Centers for women and chil-
dren in Ha Noi, Ha Giang, Quang Ninh, Thai Binh and Ha Tinh province. The centers
provide counseling and referral services to women and children in need, as well as carry out
prevention and economic capacity building activities for vulnerable groups in the communi-
Responding to the situation, the Vietnamese Government in 2004 approved a project to
prevent child abuse and help victims to reintegrate into the community in the period to
2010, with total funding of VND35 billion ($2.23 million). The project aims to reduce the
number of children suffering from sexual harassment by 15% annually and provide assis-
tance to 90% of the victims and their families. (Vnexpress, April 19, 2004; Labour, April 19,
Conclusion and recommendation
It is encouraging to see all the initiatives taken, although these are, to date, relatively modest.
It is especially interesting to note that the media assumes its responsibility in terms of watch-
ing the situation and by exposing articles on both cases and the way the Government deals
with the problem. As recognized also by the Government’s report, we also believe that re-
source allocations is one key to coming to terms with the situation. Maybe more resources
are needed, but it is also a matter of using the resources in the most efficient way. Education
and communication are probably two other key factors and such initiatives should build to
the highest extent possible on information provided by people who themselves have been
victims, or maybe even former perpetrators (recognizing their wrong-doings) in specific ar-
eas such as: what should be communicated; to whom; where; when, how etc.
Many victims of trafficking do not come back to their community or less than 10% in the
PAR in Bac Giang, Quang Ninh and Lang Son (SCUK research 2003) due to the lack of job
opportunities, vocational training, access to loans, credits etc (Report from Quang Ninh
Women’s Union who provide counselling for victims). The return and reintegration proce-
dures and processes are still inadequate.
For example between July and December 2005, a joint police crackdown between the Viet
Nam and China in border areas rescued a total of 133 Vietnamese women and among them
25 were children. “However, the local authorities lacked enough funds and resources to pro-
vide full assistance to the returnees for their immediate recovery needs and return to their
homes. In response to a request for assistance from the Vietnamese authorities a number of
international agencies contributed support. … The campaign, though a considerable success,
showed that comprehensive support services for returnees are not yet available in these
northern border provinces where many trafficked victims return. Accommodation is a par-
ticular need - both immediate reception and medium-stay accommodation while the victims
are recovering and deciding whether to return home. In the meantime, the Ministry of La-
bour, Invalids and Social Affairs are considering the option of accommodating returned vic-
tims of trafficking in a separate part of Rehabilitation Centres for Sex Workers or in Social
Protection Centres for old and homeless persons.” (UNIAP paper on Campaign by Viet-
namese and Chinese Police to Rescue and Return Victims of Trafficking)
Moreover, there is still a lack of follow-up support services for the returnees including chil-
dren to reintegrate once they return home. In a National Training Needs Assessment on
trafficking, government personnel also expressed staff shortage as well as the need to have
better trained local social workers to ensure successful repatriation. (Summary Report on
National Training Need Assessment on Counter Trafficking, draft, SCUK, ILO, IOM,
UNICEF, UNIAP, 2005) Counselling skills and skills to work with victims, and children also
needs further attentions. (Report on Need Assessment of trafficked returnees in Dong Thap,
SCUK and Center for Quality of Life Enhancement 2005)
While much of the evidence is anecdotal, there seems to be particular centres (O5 and O6)
where women returning to Viet Nam after being trafficked, are kept in jail-like situations and
treated more as offenders than as the victims they are.
Conclusion and recommendation
It seems quite obvious that there are several problems regarding the reintegration of women
and children. These are problems relating to human resources such as lack of knowledge and
skills, but also possibly in terms of perceptions regarding the victims, where these percep-
tions include regarding returnees less as valuable humans, but more as people who have
themselves to blame for the situation they have ended up in. It may be that some efforts also
need to address these kinds of attitudes. Again the resource allocation issue is critical. Re-
sources can go into prevention and/or response and this must be balanced in an appropriate
way. The need for trained social workers has long been recognized in Viet Nam, but, as yet,
social work is not officially recognised as a profession. This needs to be addressed urgently.
Skilled social workers, with a diversity of specialities, can play a crucial role both in the pre-
ventive, to detect women/children at risk, as well as responsive work.
There is a need to develop clear victim identification, return and reintegration procedures
since the support to the returning victims including children are still incomplete.
Prevalence and tendency
A result of a workshop organized by Women’s Union and UNICEF shows that in a number
of provinces the prostitution is prevalent. In Hai Duong for example, the risk of being sexu-
ally abused for those children who are working in karaoke bars, is high. In Hai Duong city,
there were 1-2 underage children in each of the 120 karaoke bars (Women’s Union and
UNICEF, nd.). According to World Children Organization, there are approximately 200,000
sex workers from Viet Nam, and 7.5 % - 10 % are children (World Children Organization,
2006). However, some sex workers in Ha Noi in a focus group discussion organized by CE-
FACOM state that up to 80 % of sex workers of whom they know or observe are under 18,
and many as young as 14-16 years old. They also reveal that Quang Ba (Ha Noi) and Hung
Yen (near Ha Noi) is notorious for underage girl prostitutes (CEFACOM, 2006).
Regarding the newly emerging serious issue of sex-tourism, Pham Tu, Vice Head of the Na-
tional Administration of Tourism admitted that the number of international tourists to Viet
Nam for sex purposes, particularly with teenagers, is on a rise “at any time and any place”.
(Lao Dong – Labour, July 2, 2003)
A conference to prevent child sex tourism in ASEAN countries held on July 1-2, 2003 in Ha
Noi called upon the Vietnamese Government to make greater efforts to stop child prostitu-
tion as the practice has begun to emerge in the country. (Labour, Jul 2, 2003; HCM City
Youth, July 2, 2003)
This year the number of children (under 18) engage in prostitution has increased and ac-
counts for 13.4 % of prostitutes in Viet Nam and is now five times higher in comparison to
2000. (Tien Phong, March 16, 2006)
Handling cases of sexual exploitation has been done fairly well. No matter how important
the position of the perpetrator, they have been brought to court for their crime. An example
is that the Ha Noi People’s Court on October 29, 2004 handed down an eight-year prison
sentence for a former Deputy Sports Minister charged with child rape (Tuoi Tre –Youth,
Oct 30, 2004). In September and October 2003 alone, the Supreme People’s Court brought
to court 88 cases of child rape allegedly committed by 95 criminals. (Viet Nam Net, Nov 29,
"According to AFESIP, in "the little Saigon" area (Svaypak, Cambodia), there is a number of
children prostitutes aged 6-10 (10 %), aged 12-16 (80%). These figures demonstrate an
alarming situation in terms of Women and Children trafficking (WCT) in the region in gen-
eral and Viet Nam particularly.
According to the Police authority, from mid 2005 to now, WTC in Viet Nam has shown
new features in comparison with previous years in that: WTC has taken place not only along
the borders but also inland, especially in Haiphong town and Thai Binh province. 25 WTC
rings and sites have been identified by the police. Still, Viet Nam-Sino border remains the
WTC area with the highest prevalence and the most complicated situation. A majority of
WTC rings with internationally organised activities have been operating in Hong Kong,
Macau, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Czech Republic with Vietnamese counterparts in Ha
Tay, Thanh Hoa, Tuyen Quang, Quang Ninh and Nghe An provinces.
Although increased WTC as well as increased need for repatriation (of WTC victims), the
Government, until now, has no concrete policy/measures supporting the victims. Local au-
thorities consider this a complicated matter, thus pay poor attention and make poor efforts
to change the situation. Although, the Government has stipulated an inter-sectoral account-
ability, there is a lack of mechanism for inter-sectoral coordination. Unclear work division
and accountability between MOLISA, Border Police Force, Regular Police Force, local gov-
ernments and other governmental agencies prevents effective mobilisation of involved
stakeholders in action. In details, there is a lack of policies and resources for integration
of repatriates into communities. There is a lack of government support centres to receive
and provide services needed." (Phu Nu, Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, March 12, 2006)
In 2004 the Australian non-profit Child Wise Organization held a workshop to train more
than 50 Vietnamese hotel staff, taxi drivers, tourist guides and travel agents in simple meth-
ods to safeguard children from sex tourism. (Viet Nam News, July 11, 2005; Youth, Sep 30,
2005, Liberated Saigon, Sep 30, 2005)
The Vietnamese Government has tried their best to create a legal framework to combat child
prostitution. Besides the Penal Code and its concretized legal documents, there are many
other legal documents dealing with the child trafficking and prostitution problem. These
documents focus on two main aspects supplementing to relevant legal labour provisions.
The first aspect is communication and education on prevention of child prostitution. The
second is prevention of children from falling into situations in which they may become vic-
tims of sexual abuse or labour exploitation.
Conclusion and recommendation
It seems obvious that child prostitution is on the rise in Viet Nam. Again it seems though
that there is a lack of trustworthy information about the prevalence, which is why this should
be looked into by the Vietnamese Government by researching the issue.
A lot of the legal framework seems also to be in place, but again, it seems that the law en-
forcement must be enhanced.
As mentioned in the Government’s report there are quite good laws to prevent and handle
child pornography. However, the Government’s report focus very much on children/young
people as possible consumers of pornographic materials and not as children/young people be-
ing possibly exploited in the production of such materials.
So far, we did not come up on any cases of using photos of children for pornographic pur-
poses. However, the use of Internet is rapidly increasing in Viet Nam, which provides more
and more opportunities for those who want to make use of children in terms of pornogra-
phy. Though our own experiences in this field is too limited to say anything about the real
situation, we believe that it would be naïve to think that child pornography would not exist
in Viet Nam.
Cases have been found in Viet Nam where parents have forced and/or sold their child into
pornography (ILO/IPEC, 2002).
The police also arrested two Dutch citizens who recorded a sex video with a group of
women and men out of which there were some children not more than 17 years old. (Vnex-
press, Aug 18, 2003)
The Government’s report mentions Young Media Clubs. To this we would like to add that
up to the end of year 2005, there are 42 Young Media Clubs in 21 provinces with approxi-
mately 2,500 members. These clubs are under the management of the Youth Union and
supported by UNICEF, Plan in Viet Nam and Save the Children UK. Children in these
clubs have been contributing to the communication and education campaign among children
themselves and adults.
Conclusions and recommendations
We believe that the issue of child pornography should be further studied, in order to know
more both about the prevalence and the nature of these crimes. As far as we know there are
many successful experiences made in e g Europe on how to chase down child pornography
and paedophile rings on the Internet. The Government should learn more about how this
work is done.
There is no single contributing factor that can be attributed to why children are vulnerable to
exploitation and drawn in to child trafficking, prostitution and pornography. It is a complex
web of interrelated factors including poverty, lack of education, dysfunctional families, gen-
der inequality, and the influence of consumerism drawing children into urban centres.
“The supply side”
Poverty and lack of employment opportunities are forcing children and adults to seek alter-
native means of survival. In Viet Nam, like other Asian countries, community economic
conditions, such as low living standards, undeveloped local market and poor infrastructure,
are driving the migration of people from rural to urban centres in search of jobs, most only
finding opportunities in the informal sector (ILO/IPEC 2002). UNICEF also believes that
the migration of children and young people to cities is due to their search for consumer
goods and a better life. With increased access to media and increased consumer advertising,
young people are exposed to ideals of affluence and materialism. These unrealistic expecta-
tions and aspirations are luring people from their rural lives into urban centres, often where
they are vulnerable to exploitation and face more extreme poverty. (UNICEF 2004)
Children sometimes become involved in these areas while seeking legitimate work to assist
their families, they may then be enticed or tricked into areas like child prostitution. ILO has
found that in cases when parents have forced their child or sold their child into sex work and
pornography, the first step is usually to sell their daughter’s virginity, which is paid for
highly, most often between USD300 and 500 and sometimes as much as USD1,000.
Dysfunctional families & exploitation
Child abuse within the home (often influenced by drug and alcohol abuse) drive children to
leave home, making them vulnerable and at risk of exploitation (UNICEF, 2004). Other
situations in dysfunctional families such as divorce and the death of a parent can leave chil-
dren unprotected and vulnerable. An ILO study found that nearly half of the child prosti-
tutes interviewed had been through a traumatic family experience. 18 percent were from
broken homes, with their parents divorced, 4 percent had lost their mother, 9 percent of the
children’s father had died and nearly 6 percent had lost both parents (ILO/IPEC, 2002). The
children who have lost both of their parents are most at risk of being forced or enticed into
The now developing area of social work in Viet Nam should emphasize on early detection of
high risk families in relation to the issues discussed in this report. Good knowledge of what
constitutes a “high risk family” would facilitate that early detection and provide opportuni-
ties to a directed support in terms of counselling, information etc. A system for alternative
placements of children should be developed, avoiding the institutionalisation of children.
Lack of education and unawareness of child trafficking make children vulnerable in Viet
Nam. Studies show that most children in prostitution have lower standards of education
than other Vietnamese children, with many not finishing even primary school (ILO/IPEC
2002). The education levels of child prostitutes also varied geographically with one study
showing that almost 70 % of child prostitutes interviewed in the North achieved lower sec-
ondary education, while in the South, a quarter of the children interviewed were illiterate
(ILO/IPEC 2002). This same study showed that every child interviewed had left school be-
cause of economic difficulties, demonstrating the interrelation of the many factors that make
children vulnerable to exploitation.
The lack of education amongst children and also often their care-givers means they have lim-
ited access to information about child exploitation and its consequences, preventing them
from making informed decisions.
Ways of reaching the less educated families and children should be developed in cooperation
with these groups in order to make the education as accessible and relevant as possible for
these groups. Considering the living conditions for many families and children in the high-
risk groups more qualified outreach work is needed.
Demographics of Child Prostitution
Child prostitution in Viet Nam affects almost exclusively girls and is more widespread in the
south of the country, with the girls there tending to be younger (GTZ, 2005). An ILO as-
sessment found most child prostitutes to be between the ages of 15 and 17 years old in the
North and between 13 and 17 in the South. The same assessment also found that all child
prostitutes in the North were female, while only a few boys were discovered in the South
It may be that most known cases until now concerns girls and young women. However, we
have reason to believe, based on global experiences, that it is important for the concerned
authorities to look also at the risk of boys and young men becoming involved in prostitution,
“The demand side”
The perpetrators are not only those who sexually abuse and exploit children and adolescents
directly. This group includes anyone involved in either the recruitment; trafficking or lodging
of minors for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Unfortunately trafficking in children is a
highly lucrative business. The demand and interest from the perpetrators creates an increase
in the sexual exploitation of children and adolescents. The perpetrators are predominantly
male. However, women are also involved. Particularly in cross-border trafficking, the general
assumption can be that of the involvement of organized crimes. (GTZ, 2004)
The phenomenon of “buying virginity” is prevalent in big cities such as Ha Noi and Ho Chi
Minh City. Sex workers in the group discussion organized by CEFACOM in 2006 revealed
that most of the clients who wants the service is over 50, rich and powerful, they are even
willing to pay VND 20.000.000 (which is equivalent to approximately USD 1,200) to have
sex with a virgin, the younger the girl, the higher the price they have to pay. Most of the cli-
ents come from Ha Noi or big cities. The reasons are: they have got problems with their
business and wanted to have some “refreshment”.
Among the perpetrators, the “users” in Viet Nam, like in other countries, do not constitute a
homogeneous group. Some are “occasional perpetrators”, while others more consistently
have sex exclusively with children. The latter group is looking for a constant exchange of in-
formation about pedo-sexual practices, offerings and possibilities to avoid penalization. This
information exchange takes place in electronic forums as well as other for a (GTZ, 2004).
We believe that the “occasional perpetrators’” behaviour may be less difficult to change.
Again by knowing more about this group and the settings where these “occasional” viola-
tions take place, the better the possibility to direct relevant information to this group. The
other groups undertake sophisticated intelligence work, and as said above, there are good
experiences and lessons to be learned from many other parts of the world to tackle these
people. Real progress requires extensive collaboration between different authorities and, not
the least, between police in different countries.
Globally, the sharp economic divide between industrialized and developing nations, in-
creased travel activity, the ease of trading pornography over the internet, and networking be-
tween perpetrators all contribute substantially to the spread of commercial sexual exploita-
tion (GTZ 2004). In 1999, the Viet Nam News reported that “the development of tourism is
one of the main causes of increased child prostitution. Many foreigners who come to Viet
Nam think that besides the favourable conditions for business and tourism, Viet Nam will
also provide cheap and safe sex tours” (Klain, 1999). The street children in a focus group
discussion conducted by CEFACOM seemed to agree with this point when they talked
about the issues of child sex tourism in Viet Nam (CEFACOM, 2006).
Urbanization and migration as a result of the transition to a market economy are today fuel-
ling factors to the growth in child prostitution, although it is prohibited. The gap between
the rich and poor is growing and in rural areas in particular, this is encouraging the exploita-
tion of children, while at the same time the demand for sex with girls is rising, for instance
from business people (GTZ, 2005). There is also reason to believe that there is also a domes-
tic demand in Viet Nam.
Organized crimes and corruption are playing an increasingly important role in commercial
sexual exploitation of children, and it also happens that officials are involved in child traf-
ficking or are themselves customers (GTZ, 2005). Seeking for a better life for their next gen-
eration, parents sell their children, sometimes in the hope that they will escape from poverty
in this way (GTZ, 2004).
Other risk factors are the lack of education including sex education and unawareness of
Currently, reproductive and health education is provided through many channels, such as
schools, family, mass media, community activities, youth organizations, and counselling cen-
tres. The Government of Viet Nam, with the assistance and support of the United Nations
Population Fund (UNFPA) and other international and nongovernmental organizations, has
introduced sex education into the curricula of selected schools since 1984. However, impor-
tant topics such as STIs, family planning methods, and abortion have yet to be included in
these curricula (Centre for Reproductive Rights, 2005). The teaching is also theory rather
There is considerable debate in Viet Nam about the right age when to start learning about
sex and many parents think that their children are too young and immature to have this kind
of information. A global survey shows that the oldest recipients (16 year old) (Durex 2005).
This leaves many young people, but with the possibility to get to know about sex from other
sources like internet and/or learning from practical experience.
Regarding the lack of information, cited from Klain (1999), some people (men?) incorrectly
thought that children posed a lesser danger of sexually-transmitted diseases such as HIV.
Therefore, there are still organized networks which supply virgin prostitutes to both domes-
tic clients and foreigners. More seriously, the erroneous assumption that sex with children is
a way to avoid HIV also boosts demand. (GTZ, 2004)
It seems obvious that the education on sex and reproductive health must be reviewed. It has
to start earlier and it has to be more explicit than what is the case today. This goes for the
mainstream school system, but other channels should also be explored and developed.
Gender stereotypes and roles partly lead to a weak social position of children and women in
Vietnamese culture since men are expected to drink socially, to be the breadwinner, and to
serve as head of the household. It is also believed that men have a more uncontrollable tem-
per than women do. Women, on the other hand, are expected to maintain harmony within
the family (Vu et al 1999). Hence, it is not surprising if young girls think that they have to
comply with the sexual needs and demands from men and boys.
Recently, a variety of television programs address reproductive and sexual health for adoles-
cents and youths. However, some programs only address girls’ issues, thus reproducing the
expectation on girls’ reproductive responsibility. For example, Girls’ Program, a weekly show
that targets 12- to 15-year olds and focuses on physical and psychological sexual develop-
ment and education often bring out the gender stereotype solutions for adolescent sexual
and reproductive problems (Center for Reproductive Rights, 2005).
We recognize that gender stereotypes and roles is something that, in any society, is devel-
oped and deeply rooted over centuries and is not easily changed. Nevertheless we do believe
that it is essential to bring these issues up for discussion. Again the education system and
curricula should be looked at to introduce such discussions already among young people,
both girls and boys. Although some campaigns also raise the issue of men’s responsibility for
family and children, it is unfortunate when one campaign like “Women … raise kids well,
women build happy family” (from the Government’s report) is realised, since these are tasks
that belong to men as much as to women. Besides the educational setting other settings for
initiating gender related discussions should be explored, with a specific focus on settings
where (young) men may have open-minded discussions on these aspects. Maybe young fami-
lies and parents would be an interesting target group for such communication. And what
could be done within the frame of military training, where so many young men could be
Social preconceptions and traditions
Some traditions are particularly harmful, such as “deflowering” of girls in the Lunar New
Year celebrations (GTZ, 2005). Articles in the newspapers, on businessmen buying virginity
to have luck in their work, are not rare.
As far as the attitude of the society is concerned, a lack of sense of wrongdoing, tolerance or
social taboos against speaking of sexuality and sex-related matters all promote sexual exploi-
tation (GTZ, 2004). In many cases in Viet Nam, the fear of defamation and loss of face for
the family within the community, unfavourable experience with police and inefficient law en-
forcement mean that many of those affected including their relatives hesitate to report cases.
The perpetrators benefit from this (GTZ, 2004).
Moreover, the conformity pressure that makes children obey adults is also taken advantage
of by the perpetrators. In several cases of child abuse, children follow strictly the guidance of
the offenders as they are taught “you have to respect adults and be obedient”.
Besides improved ways of communicating we believe that children’s own understanding
about themselves and their rights would strengthen them in their ability/courage to say no!
Information communicated must also make absolutely clear who is the victim and who is the
perpetrator and that the victim should not be the one to be blamed. There must also be clear
and distinct interventions when cases appears: the victim and her/his near social environ-
ment must get the support needed to be able to re-establish her/his self esteem and the al-
leged perpetrator must, after a fair trial, get his/her sentence. These two factors help sending
a clear message to, not only the directly involved, but also to the surrounding social envi-
ronment that the kind of violations in focus of this report is totally unacceptable.
o Assessment of the Legal System in Viet Nam in Comparison with the UN Convention
against Trans-national Organized Crime and Protocols of Trafficking in Persons and
Smuggling of Migrants, March 2004.
o CEFACOM (2006). Report on child sex tourism. The Protection Project. John Hopkin
University – CEFACOM.
o Durex (2005). Give and receive 2005 Global Sex Survey results, Durex website
o GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) (2005), Commercial sex-
ual exploitation of minors in Viet Nam, GTZ website
o GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit) (2004), Sexual exploita-
tion of children, GTZ website [http://www.gtz.de/en/themen/soziale-
o Handbook on Law and Policy related to prevention and combating trafficking in
Women and Children, SCUK and Women’s Union, 2005
o http://world-children.org (accessed on Feb 24th 2006)
o Klain, E. J. (1999), Prostitution of Children and Child-Sex Tourism: An analysis of do-
mestic and international responses.
o Oxfam’s Article: Trafficking in Women and Children from Viet Nam to China: Legal
framework and Government responses, May 2005
o Participatory Action Report, SCUK, 2003 and 2005
o Report from Quang Ninh Women’s Union who provide counselling for victims
o Report on Need Assessment of trafficked returnees in Dong Thap, SCUK and Center
for Quality of Life Enhancement, 2005
o Summary Report on National Training Need Assessment on Counter Trafficking, draft,
SCUK, ILO, IOM, UNICEF, UNIAP, 2005
o UNIAP paper on Campaign by Vietnamese and Chinese Police to Rescue and Return
Victims of Trafficking, 2005
o Women’s Union & UNICEF (nd). Workshop on Communication and Education on
child sexual abuse prevention, 1997
H.E. Minister/Chairwoman Le Thi Thu appendix 1
The Committee for Population, Family and Children
12 Ngo Tat To, Ha Noi
Tel. 733 3546/ Fax 823 3003 – 8430061
Ha Noi, April 10, 2006
On behalf of Save the Children Sweden in Viet Nam, I would like to convey our most sincere and
warmest greetings to you and your staff.
We, together with a number of other NGOs active in Viet Nam, recognize that the Government of
Viet Nam has submitted its first report on the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child signed by Viet Nam in 1990. We believe that the report gives
a good picture of the comprehensive measures taken by the Government in order to come to terms
with the issues relevant to the Optional Protocol and thus forms concrete evidence of the Govern-
ment’s of Viet Nam commitment to children’s rights.
At the request of the NGO Group for the CRC in Geneva we have put together a complementary
report on the situation relating to the issues relevant to the Optional Protocol which has been sent to
Geneva on April 8, 2006. The report is built on our own and other organizations’ experiences from
work in the field, surveys and studies conducted as part of our programmes as well as Vietnamese
media coverage. The report has been shared with CPFC’s Department for International Relations
and the department’s comments have been considered before finalizing the report.
The work on the report was coordinated by Save the Children Sweden and is to a very large extent
based on the input from the following organizations: Save the Children UK, CARE International in
Vietnam, CEFACOM, CSAGA, Oxfam Quebec, Plan in Viet Nam, World Vision and Vietnamese
We are now happy to share this report with you and it is our sincere hope that this report will sup-
port the process of improving the lives of girls and boys and women in Viet Nam in that it provides
some ideas and recommendations on what more could be done by the Government of Viet Nam in
its effort to realize children’s rights.
Thank you very much for you kind attention
Save the Children Sweden in Viet Nam