New Guidelines Empower Vietnamese Police to Safeguard Women Against Violence and Human Trafficking


Author: Thao Hoang

Thanh Hoa, Viet Nam — The Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of Viet Nam and UN Women have jointly developed guiding documents for policemen on protection and support for women experiencing violence and trafficking in persons, and methods of investigating gender-sensitive cases.

The two comprehensive guidelines include the Gender-Sensitive Investigation Guidelines for Handling Cases of Violence and Human Trafficking; and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for Providing Coordinated Essential Services to Victims of Violence and Human Trafficking.

Designed in alignment with international standards and best practices, these guidelines provide police officers with practical tools and protocols to safeguard and assist women facing violence and human trafficking, while also enhancing their capacity to investigate cases with a gender-sensitive perspective.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Participants at the inaugural training workshop of the guidelines in Thanh Hoa province, August 2023. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Colonel Pham Mai Hien, Deputy Head of Division Five at the Criminal Police Department of MPS, shed light on the challenges faced by law enforcement. "The police force is grappling with the enormity of its jurisdiction. Often, victims of violence and human trafficking are rescued by male officers who belong to border guards or rapid response units. For female victims, the presence of male officers can evoke fear due to their traumatic experiences. This creates obstacles in the process of taking statements, investigating cases, and providing support," explained Hien.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Colonel Pham Mai Hien, Deputy Head of Division Five at the Criminal Police Department of MPS, shared challenges faced by law enforcement in a UN Women workshop in August 2023. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

Hien's insight comes from her experience in the inaugural training workshop, which introduced these groundbreaking guidelines to about 40 participants, including policemen, legal aid providers, healthcare workers, and social service officers. The workshop, jointly organized by UN Women and MPS from July 30 to August 2 in Thanh Hoa City, Northern Vietnam, was strategically held in a region that is known for a high rate of overseas migration.

Colonel Lê Hoàng Dương, Deputy General Director of the International Affairs Department at MPS, stressed the escalating issue of human trafficking. Just in 2022, a staggering 90 cases involving 247 perpetrators came to light. Duong emphasized that “human trafficking exploits the connection between labor migration and recruitment, often luring victims with promises of well-paying, light work”. He further pointed out the proliferation of this crime on online platforms.

What sets these guidelines apart is their applicability at the grassroots level. Colonel Dương praised their potential to amplify the knowledge and skills of law enforcement, allowing them to tackle these issues through a gender-sensitive lens, especially within the context of local communities.

Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang
Colonel Lê Hoàng Dương, Deputy General Director of the International Affairs Department at MPS praised the applicability of the two guidelines at the grassroots level. Photo: UN Women/Thao Hoang

The national survey on violence against women, conducted in 2019, shows that two-thirds of women experienced one or more forms of physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence. Unfortunately, up to 90 per cent of them did not seek help and half of them never told anyone about the violence which shows that most women who suffer violence have chosen to be silent or struggle to survive without adequate support. Victims of violence did not report their cases to police or seek legal aid, due to a number of societal and cultural barriers, for example, stigma and pressure by family. They also face legal and institutional barriers such as lack of privacy, protection concerns, complicated procedures, etc.

Caroline T. Nyamayeombe, Head of Office a.i, UN Women Viet Nam, emphasized that these guidelines herald a new era of collaboration and coordination in dealing with gender-based violence and human trafficking. The approach shifts from isolated efforts to a united front against these societal scourges.

In the upcoming months, UN Women and MPS are planning to train over 150 police officers across the nation, vested with the responsibility of investigating human trafficking cases. With support from the EU-funded Safe and Fair Migration Program, this endeavor is destined to elevate law enforcement's capability in offering unwavering support to victims of violence and human trafficking.