Redefining children as those under the age of 18 is key to helping younger people access child protection services before they are legally classed as an adult.
Redefining children as those under the age of 18 is key to helping younger people access child protection services before they are legally classed as an adult (Photo: nhandan.com.vn)
That was the key message from a workshop which broke down results of a recent study called “Implications of adjusting the legal age of children in Vietnam”.
The workshop was held on August 30 in Hanoi by the Institute of Legislative Studies under National Assembly and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Vu Cong Giao, head of the research group, said the purpose of the study was to evaluate in a comprehensive and specific way the legal and practical issues relating to the issue and propose solutions on the amendments on children's legal age in the 2016 Law on Children.
The study was conducted in the capital city of Hanoi and four provinces, Tra Vinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh and Hoa Binh.
It outlined four key elements as foundations for the legal age adjustment of children in Vietnam including the interest of the Party, State and society in child protection, care and education; requests from the country’s international integration; the demand for protection and care of children aged 16-17 year and the State's ability to respond.
“If a child was defined as a person under the age of 16 years - as per the Law on Children – it means that nearly three million minors aged 16-17 in Vietnam have been excluded from essential protection that is critical to develop their potential in safety before reaching full adulthood,” said Rana Flowers, UNICEF Representative in Vietnam.
She said without a clear legal basis for care, protection and support, they were at high risk of sexual abuse, dropping out of school, marrying at early age, engaging in child labour or having an abortion.
“These experiences have a negative impact on children themselves, and also on the quality of the labour force and ultimately on the country’s sustainable development,” Flowers said.
“There is an urgency to act, to address these pressing issues, and invest better in education, health, nutrition, and protection of this critical age group.”
The study said the adjustment of the legal age of Vietnamese children to 18 years was appropriate, necessary and would have a positive impact.
It proposed the National Assembly and Government consider and amend provisions in Article 1 of the 2016 Law on Children. The amendment would not only bring it into accordance with the constitutions’ age of maturity but also promote consistency across the different laws.
The change would harmonise in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which set the legal of children at under the age of 18 years.
The difference between Vietnam and CRC are hindering international cooperation relating children, including the collecting of statistics on children in Vietnam as well as report on the implementation of CRC and Sustainable Development Goals of United Nations. Thus, the adjustment of legal age would solve the problem.
Although the adjustment might affect the country’s expenditure, it would not result in massive cost to State Budget, Giao said.
For example, the budget spending for children which stood at 774 billion VND (33.3 million USD) last year, would increase by 97 billion VND (4.1 million USD) with the adjustment, he said.
Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security over the past year showed minors aged 16-17 accounted for 68 percent of the total number of persons under the age of 18 who commit crime, said Pham Manh Hung, from Criminal Police Department under the Ministry of Publicity.
Due attention should be paid to these groups as they were transitioning to adulthood, he said.
Hung highlighted the need to strengthen dissemination campaign to raise their awareness on law obedience.-VNS/VNA