Since 2013, Blue Dragon has been working on the issue of the sexual exploitation of boys in Vietnam. A little known and poorly understood problem, boys in Vietnam have not been protected by the laws covering child sexual abuse because of the way the law has defined ‘sexual intercourse’.
Blue Dragon’s Street Outreach team, assisting homeless children on the streets of Hanoi, have met 56 children in the past 24 months who have been sexually abused. Street boys are easy targets because they are far from their families, and the stigma of admitting to abuse easily prevents the reporting of the crime.
In response, Blue Dragon has worked toward amending the Vietnamese penal code so that boys are equally protected by the law. Over the past two years we have advocated to the government for reform, working with police, officials, legislators and academics to draw attention to the weakness in the law and explore how it can be improved. In 2015, we took the further step of working with Vietnamese media so that they could highlight this problem and educate the public on its prevalence.
But throughout the whole time, our most important work has continued to be with the children themselves. Nothing has been more important than caring for them, offering them counselling and safety, and whenever possible reuniting them with their families.
By working with both the children and the police, our efforts have resulted in the arrest of 5 men, both Vietnamese and foreign, who have been caught abusing boys. Blue Dragon has represented their victims in 3 separate court cases, with one yet to come. Although the law on sexual abuse does not apply to male victims, police have been able to use the Child Obscenity law to press charges. Sentences are much lower than for sexual abuse, but for the first time paedophiles preying on boys have found that there is a consequence for their actions and the risk of getting caught is growing.
And the really great news is that, in November 2015, the National Assembly Law Review Panel approved some amendments to the penal code to broaden the scope of the law. It still needs to be signed into effect and there is more work needed to be done on the wording of the definitions, but the process of bringing the law up to date is well on the way. Once the law reform process is complete, we will continue working with the police and government to ensure that the law is implemented.
Blue Dragon’s work has not only protected hundreds of streets children, but we have also impacted the lives of all of Vietnam’s boys by bringing them legal protection from sexual abuse.