Participants at the launch of the UN study in Hanoi on March 21 (Photo: daidoanket.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) – The United Nations (UN) in Vietnam on March 21 launched a study on the criminal justice system response to sexual violence in Thailand and Vietnam, shedding new light on discrimination against rape victims.

The study, “The Trial of Rape: Understanding the criminal justice system response to sexual violence in Thailand and Vietnam”, is the first such comparative study in the Asia-Pacific region. It was conducted by the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Opening the launch in Hanoi, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam Kamal Malhotra emphasised that institutional responses to violence against women need to be tailored to the particular and diverse needs and priorities of women and girls. 

“Along with efforts to prevent violence in the first place, the justice sector’s response will be critical to ending the cycle of violence. It needs to send out a clear and unequivocal message that any violence against women and girls is unacceptable,” he said, noting that justice providers play a vital role in keeping women and girls safe, and holding perpetrators accountable.

Anna-Karin Jatfors, Deputy Regional Director of UN Women’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, who presented the report, said the study found that there are pervasive barriers to justice for survivors of sexual assault that stem from not only difficulties in getting assistance, but also in the attitudes and biases of the police and justice officials tasked with providing assistance. 

Understanding what the barriers to justice are is a crucial first step to delivering justice to women and ending the widespread impunity in sexual violence, she added.

The study found that most of victims in Thailand and Vietnam face a number of difficulties and challenges in accessing justice, which is partly attributable to attitude and discrimination. Those difficulties and challenges discourage victims from seeking assistance and make them feel humiliated in all stages of the criminal justice process, from initial reporting stage to the trial stage.

The findings of this study reveal that the main factors in reported cases of rape contradict numerous commonly held myths and beliefs about rape. While there is a myth that “real rape” involves strangers, force, physical injury and occurs in public, 86 percent of victims reported knowing the suspect and 76 percent of victims had no visible signs of injury in Vietnam. These findings have important implications for how justice systems handle sexual crimes and interact with victims of sexual violence. 

A key strength of the study is the substantial engagement from the Governments of Thailand and Vietnam in the research, which improves the shared understanding of the barriers in the administration of justice, and where to focus efforts to address them.

Based on these findings, the study gives several recommendations, including establishing quality essential justice services for victims that prioritise their safety, protection and support; and promoting an integrated and coordinated criminal justice, government and civil society response.-VNA