Appendix F

The Case of Vietnam


I. Introduction
Trafficking in women and children has been a warning phenomenon all over the world, from developed countries to developing ones. The motive of personal profit and benefit at any cost has its effect on increase of women and children trafficking as well as gathering evil forces from many countries. In a general sense, women and children become a commodity provided for the sex industry and labour exploitation. This ‘human commodity’ appears to be provided by developing countries, where their population boom is accompanied by poverty and where a market economy creates a profit-based ideology despite moral degradation.
Vietnam is a Southeast Asia country that shares a 3,730 km border with China on the North, Laos on the West, and Cambodia on the Southwest. It has a land area of 330,220 square kilometres and its 76.6 million population consisting of 54 ethnic groups makes it the 12th most populated country in the world. Vietnam has had a history of war since their war of independence with France until 1945, the division of their country into the North and South in 1954, and their long war to gain total independence from the Americans until 1975. After these long wars Vietnam has faced many difficulties which exist until today. In 1986 the 6th National Communist Party Congress adopted an open-door policy and transformed the centrally economy to a market economy which resulted in record-setting successes in terms of many economic indicators. Despite the huge economic success, Vietnam's social sector has had a lot of problems requiring attention including poverty, unemployment, and a widening gap between the poor and rich, the urban and rural areas, and between classes. The quality of life in many ethnic minority areas is poor and the quality of education and training and medical services in low in many places. And the other side of the market economy is that ‘Pornographic harmful cultural products are widespread. Social evils are developing. Social safety is compromised.’
Another major problem is child trafficking and child exploitation. There is evidence of child trafficking throughout history, but before it was only coerced and unlawful adjustment such as a child was transferred from one childless family to another childless family, usually boys being transferred from the lowlands to the highlands. Presently child trafficking has a different face. Girls are usually the ones coerced and sold in much wider operations whose extent is not only domestic but includes cross-border activity towards neighbouring countries. Before, child traffickers catered to entities for adoption or child labour. Now, child trafficking in geared mainly for white slavery. Cross-border child trafficking for white slavery is alarmingly increasing. Traditionally, child labour in Vietnam was only to assist adults in their work, depending on the situation and age of the child. Children do work on the farms, do house chores, or other tasks as soon as they are able, or, as Ho Chi Minh said, ‘ little children do little things accordingly.’ Sometimes, especially nowadays, some children work sooner than other children of the same age to earn income. Generally, children of age 14 or 15 are seen as being of the ripe age to join the labour force. During the 60s and 70s children were paid 50 per cent the rate of adults for doing the same jobs. Children nowadays are influenced by the market economy unlike before. Earning an income is more important and parents purposely let their children work to help with the family income, not minding children's age and health.
II. Methodology
The research project placed emphasis on primary data collection using document analysis and case studies to gather information and collect data. The document analysis included law and policy documents; general statistics, local community, and service provider reports; and books, journals, studies, and other relevant literature in the mass media, especially the daily newspapers. The focus was on child trafficking, child prostitution, and child labour with age of children given priority as important data. The case studies included 26 in-depth interviews and with individuals such as the traffickers themselves, public officials, victims, social workers, and others. Group discussions were also held with 12 groups of community members in the locations where the research was undertaken.
In preparation for fieldwork, cooperation was requested of the Chief of the Ministry of the Interior in Hanoi, the Ministry of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs (MOLISA), and the Women's Union (WU) in Hanoi. The team met with a representative from the office of the Director General for the Department of Social Welfare to discuss the state policy regarding child prostitution and the current situations of street children and child labour. The research team also made contacts with the Centre for Women Studies in Ho Chi Minh City and local Women's unions at research sites to request cooperation. Based on the information gathered from the various organisations contacted, several provinces with large amounts of child labour and trafficking in children were selected as research areas. These were Lang Son and Quang Ninh on the northern border with China and Tay Ninh, Kien Giang, and An Giang on the south-western border with Cambodia.
III. Nature and Extent of the Problem
In Vietnam, there are various definitions of children, but children are mostly defined as those being under 16 years of age. Children under 15 years of age are seen as labourers when they can be used in some jobs according to a fixed list by MOLISA. The concept of under age people, according to the labour law, applies to those under 18 years of age. The 1995 CPCC report indicated that countrywide there were 16,000 street children, of which 13,000 were working to earn a living in service premises and small enterprises but the 1997 UNICEF’s estimation suggested the figure of 50,000 street children. According to another statistic, 10 per cent of Vietnamese children aged 6-14 are illiterate, which is another factor pushing children onto the streets. The market economy is another factor increasing child labour because the gap between the rich and the poor is getting larger and children can easily find a job.
According to the General Statistics Office (GSO) in Vietnam, about 10.5 per cent of the total of 200,000 prostitutes in Vietnam are child prostitutes under 18 years of age, but the estimated proportion of child prostitutes varies from 5.5 per cent to 20.8 per cent depending on the area, source and date of the estimate. Most estimates show that the proportion of child prostitutes in Vietnam has dramatically and alarmingly increased since 1990.
Although there are no organisations having accurate data on the number of victims of women and children trafficking in Vietnam, The Frontier Forces found that of 126 trafficking cases in 1994-1996, 14.2 per cent were adolescents and 77.3 per cent were women aged 17 to 25. Another indication is that a report of a visit to Phnom Penh in 1997 indicated that in the 50 brothels in the Sky Park area there were from 800 to 1000 Vietnamese girls aged from 13 to 22. The same report estimated that there were 3000 Vietnamese prostitutes in Phnom Penh and another document from UNICEF (1997) indicated that there were 6000 Vietnamese prostitutes in Cambodia. A report from the Centre for the Protection of the Rights of the Child in Cambodia indicated that, of the 14,725 prostitutes in 22 provinces and 64 districts in Cambodia, 2,291 were children of age from 9 to 15 years (78 per cent were Vietnamese and 22 per cent were Cambodian). These data give an indication of the seriousness of the problem of the women and children trafficking from Vietnam and show that the trend is alarmingly increasing.
IV. Contributing Factors in Sending and Receiving Communities
The sending areas of the trafficked women and children included many provinces and districts which produced a wide range of agricultural products and some mining products. The most common characteristics of the sending families were that they were disadvantaged by being poor, illiterate, and with unstable occupations. According to many of the reported case studies, the girls' parents gave little thought to the ‘morality’ of selling their daughters' virginity or of selling them into period of prostitution and some of the girls themselves perceived it as a normal business transaction or a way of paying a debt to their parents.
Information about the receiving areas of the trafficked women could not be directly obtained because the research team did not go to China or Cambodia, however some information about the receiving areas could be obtained from interviews with girls who returned or through existing documents. The receptive areas of women and children who were brought across the northern border to China were all mountainous and rural areas and the women said that they had been sold to Chinese families to be wives or servants. Their jobs were agricultural. When the Chinese police from the provinces they had to hide in the mountains to avoid being fined and forced to come back to Vietnam. The children and women who were sold through the Southwest frontier to Cambodia were sent to towns or tawniest or to the popular prostitution areas in Phnom Penh or other cities.
The report divided the factors contributing to women and children trafficking into two categories, the traffickers themselves and the factors having an impact on the girls themselves. The most important factors for the law breakers (brothel owners, pimps) were the benefits from the trafficking of children and the benefits of child sex. The benefits were so great that many continued in the sex business after being arrested and serving time in prisons. Usually the traffickers were people with a bad background such as drinkers, drug abusers, gamblers, or lazy people. The traffickers were usually women who were formerly the victims of trafficking themselves and who became experienced in women and children trafficking. They learned that the business was very profitable so they disregarded the law. The second category was the factors having an impact on the women themselves. Most came from and unfavourable family situation and disadvantaged family. They usually dropped out from school to enter a life working for their families and the women traffickers, seduction and tricks took advantage of this situation. The credulity of the young girls allowed them to be seduced by promises of a bright future without hard work. They were too young to be aware of the risks that were waiting for them and they were blind to the law and did not see the wrong that they were doing.
V. Recruitment Process for Child Trafficking
The report explained that the victims of trans-national trafficking (especially women and children) were usually deceived, seduced, embroiled, and forced. Most of them were in difficult situations, jobless or lazy, snobbish to be well-dressed, dropouts, and with a low educational level. Being well aware of these characteristics, the traffickers went deeply into the poverty stricken rural areas. They came to families and seduced children and promised to find them a job with a high income and easy life. There were also those who pretended to love the girls and promised to marry them. Some traffickers went to rural areas to seduce and deceive women and children to go to the city under the mask of hiring manpower or an assistant with an attractive salary. The girls were then sent to entertainment places where a number of tricks were used to transform the girls into prostitutes.
Many chains of women and children trafficking have been detected and destroyed in recent years, however other leaders appeared and new trafficking chains formed. The traffickers, pimps, and brothel owners have been blinded by the green of foreign currency. In the North, due to the open policy together with the increased trade and economic communication through the Sino-Vietnamese border, the sex activities have occurred silently. Many women and children have been tricked to cross the border into China where they have forced to marry or work. Other women and children, through many processes, are forced to marry foreigners from other countries (Taiwan was particularly mentioned) and are often abandoned in a short time, forced into prostitution, or otherwise live in unhappiness.
VI. Impact of Child Labour on Children and Communities
The impacts of child labour on the children and their communities are too broad and numerous to adequately discuss. Some of the impacts are obvious, such as the children cannot obtain an education if they are working or selling sex. Children working in sex establishments face the obvious risk of HIV/AIDS as well a number of other diseases. Children trafficked to Cambodia face an even greater risk of HIV infection because the infection rate there among prostitutes was reported to be 40 per cent in 1996. Children's physical and mental health is often neglected because, with the help of the traffickers in women and children, it is more profitable for those abusing women and children to replenish their stock after it is ‘depleted’ rather than making any effort to take care of the women and children being employed. In order to survive the extremely harsh living conditions and interpersonal interactions, children living on the streets must develop personalities which make them unsuitable for normal social interactions. In addition to facing abuse from their clients, upon returning to their communities former prostitutes in Vietnam are shunned and despised. The fatherless children of those who were too naive and inexperienced to avoid pregnancy face similar hardships.
The impacts on the communities of origin are also numerous. The immediate impact is that the trafficking often creates a shortage of labor so that the production work (mainly agriculture) of the older adults in the communities becomes a burden. When the formerly trafficked women and children return to their communities of origin they sometimes bring with them diseases such as HIV and drug addiction. Others may bring ideas and values which affect the social change and cultural values of the people in the originating communities.
VII. Response and Recommendations
It was discussed that, mostly since 1991, the Vietnam government has already adopted a large number of laws and policies to combat virtually all of the problems discussed in this report. Since 1994 hundreds of cases of violations of these laws have been prosecuted. Apparently it will take some time for these measures to become effective in reducing the problems. There are also a large number of organisations established in Vietnam to help the victims of these problems.
Some recommendations for improving the situation included various amendments and changes to existing laws, the establishment of programs to help victims become integrated back into their home communities, and to improve the mass media's coverage of information which would help prevent the problem. This information should include disclosing the tricks traffickers use to seduce women and children. It should also heighten the vigilance in the prevention, active and timely detection, and denouncement of women and children traffickers in order to protect the women's' and children's honour and dignity. Some long-term measures suggested to prevent the problem are to improve the conditions and responsibility of families, to sustain the cultural norms and social values which have existed for a long time, to promote human values, and to promote the increases standard of living for all groups of Vietnamese people. Another recommendation was to improve the collaboration and agreement with other countries, especially the neighbouring ones and the ones which are destinations of women and children who were trafficked.
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