Domestic violence against children is widespread in Viet Nam despite protecting laws, says UNICEF study

Often, children in violent homes describe the multiple forms of violence they witness such as parental violence, or the physical and emotional violence they are victim of themselves, and how they may feel neglected by their parents.

24 November 2016
Often, children in violent homes describe the multiple forms of violence they witness such as parental violence, or the physical and emotional violence they are victim of themselves, and how they may feel neglected by their parents.
UNICEF Viet Nam\Truong Viet Hung

Ha Noi, 24 November 2016 – Despite legislative protection, children in Viet Nam continue to experience widespread violence in the home with long-term physical, psychological, emotional and academic consequences, according to a recent UNICEF-commissioned multi-country study.

Often, children in violent homes describe the multiple forms of violence they witness such as parental violence, or the physical and emotional violence they are victim of themselves, and how they may feel neglected by their parents.

To better understand children’s experiences of violence, and the impacts on their lives over time and across different settings, UNICEF commissioned Understanding Children’s Experiences of Violence in Viet Nam: Evidence from Young Lives. The study, now published as a 44-page report, explores children’s accounts of violence at home in Viet Nam including the factors such as living in poverty and how the subsequent stress induced by financial hardship can strain interpersonal and familial relationships, contributing to the likelihood of violence in the home.

In addition, entrenched gender norms, which are used to legitimate men’s use of violence to exert their power over other family members, shape much of the violence occurring in the home. Social norms are also often invoked to justify the use of violence as a mechanism of ‘educating’ and ‘disciplining’ children.

The study contributes to knowledge about the nature and experience of everyday violence affecting children, and concludes with some suggestions for policy, programming and practice.

“Parents use violence against their children to resolve problems they encounter in their everyday life and it is socially accepted,” explained Ms. Vu Thi Thanh Huong, Senior Researcher at the Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) and author of the report.

Ms Huong continues: “While interviewing young people, we heard many stories of families with two children, a boy and a girl. There is a pattern where parents pay systematically more attention to the son than to the daughter. It’s not uncommon for parents to make the daughter work more and stay at home while they will take the son to go sightseeing. They will also prioritize the needs of their son for clothes and often when he has mild fever they will take him immediately to see a doctor while the girl will not be taken to the hospital even if she’s really sick.”

Though children accept that parents have a responsibility to educate them, the report clearly shows that they are unhappy with the violent treatment to which they are subjected. Knowledge of and attitudes towards violence are uneven around Viet Nam and vary by gender, location and ethnicity. Typically children and young people in urban areas have significantly more awareness of their rights and of legal protections against violence compared to ethnic minority children, and most notably those living in remote locations.

According to Youssouf Abdel-Jelil, UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam, violence against children in the home occurs and UNICEF has engaged national partners to undertake actions including legislation and policies to address this harmful phenomenon. Policy and practice interventions to address violence need to consider issues of poverty and gender norms that shape children’s environments.  Prevention and response should include issues such as interpersonal communication and positive discipline along with creating protection services where children facing violence at home can easily seek support.

In communities neighbours, relatives, teachers and friends at school are on the frontline to report violence against children.  Building interventions that support these natural reporting networks should be a top priority.

The paper draws its conclusions based on an analysis of available data and testimonies gathered from Young Lives. The researchers followed a cohort of about 2,000 people who were interviewed several time over the span of 4 years (2011-2014) to explore what do they know about violence, how they experience it, what they think drives violence at home, what they perceive the consequences to be, and finally, the support they find effective in addressing violence.

The findings have been published in the Understanding Children’s Experiences of Violence series of working papers produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Young Lives research initiative. Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, initiated in 2000, which has followed 12,000 children in Ethiopia, India (in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana), Peru and Viet Nam.

Note to Editors: The full report in English can be consulted online https://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/868/

Media Contacts

Mr Louis Vigneault-Dubois
Chief of Communication and Advocacy
UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: +84 (024) 3850 0100
Tel: +84 (0)96 6539 673
Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
Advocacy and Communications Specialist
UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: +84 (024) 38500225
Tel: +84 (0)904154678

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