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Trafficking in Persons
The Penal Code prohibits trafficking in women and children; however, trafficking in women and children for the purpose of sexual exploitation and for labor, both domestically and internationally, was a serious problem. While no law specifically prohibits trafficking in men, existing laws could be used to prosecute traffickers who recruit or send men abroad to work for "illegitimate profits" or illegal purposes. While reliable statistics on the numbers of citizens trafficked were not available, there was evidence that the numbers have grown in recent years. The Social Evils Department of MOLISA and the Criminal Police Department of the MPS were the main government agencies involved in efforts to combat trafficking, in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the Women's Union, and the Border Guards. The police took an increasingly active role in investigating trafficking during the year.
During the year, the Government increased its efforts to prosecute traffickers. The law provides for prison sentences of 2 to 20 years for each offense for persons found guilty of trafficking women, and for between 3 years and life in prison for each offense for persons found guilty of trafficking children. In July 2002, a government decree forbade the use of marriage and adoption for trafficking related purposes. Hundreds of traffickers have been convicted and imprisoned, most notably in one high-profile case in 2002 in which over 150 persons were indicted for prostitution and migrant smuggling. That particular case involved ex-ministerial and law enforcement agents. The Government worked with international NGOs to supplement law enforcement measures and cooperated with other national governments to prevent trafficking. It also cooperated closely with other countries within the framework of INTERPOL and its Asian counterpart.
The country was a source country for trafficking in persons. Women were trafficked primarily to Cambodia and China for sexual exploitation and arranged marriages. According to one report, between 1990 and 2000, approximately 20,000 young women and girls were sent to China to become brides, domestic workers, or prostitutes; however, it was not clear how many were victims of trafficking. Between 1995 and 2000, approximately 5,000 women and children were trafficked to and escaped from Cambodia. Some Vietnamese women also were trafficked to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Thailand, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. There also were reports that some Vietnamese women going to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and China through arranged marriages were victims of trafficking. The Government estimated that approximately 10 percent of Vietnamese women in arranged marriages with Chinese men had been recruited under false pretenses or may have become trafficking victims. Women and children also were trafficked within the country, usually from rural to urban areas. Incidents of trafficking of adult males domestically or abroad were rare. In the past, organized crime groups used Vietnam as a transit point for persons trafficked from China and the Middle East to Australia, Canada, and Europe. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that Vietnam was a transit country for trafficking in persons during the year.
Some children were trafficked domestically and others were trafficked to foreign destinations for the purpose of prostitution. An NGO advocate estimated that the average age of trafficked girls was between 15 and 17 years of age. Some reports indicated that the ages of girls trafficked to Cambodia typically was even lower. Although statistics were not reliable, women and girls were trafficked from southern delta and highland provinces to Cambodia and from northern provinces into China generally for the purposes of prostitution, domestic work, or marriage.
Provincial and national-level authorities made combating trafficking in women and children a priority. In January, in an effort to deal with problems of trafficking of infants for adoption and corruption in adoption practices, authorities suspended foreign adoptions pending the negotiation of new bi-lateral adoption protocols.
There were reports that some women from Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta who married men from Taiwan were forced into prostitution after their arrival in Taiwan. There was reported trafficking in women to the Macau Special Administrative Region of China with the assistance of organizations in China that were ostensibly marriage service bureaus, international labor organizations, and travel agencies. After arrival, women were forced into conditions similar to indentured servitude; some were forced into prostitution. In August 2002, the Government suspended the licenses of marriage mediation services and transferred their function to the Women's Union. The services helped arrange marriages between women and foreigners, primarily Taiwanese men. Diplomatic sources estimated that between 15,000 and 18,000 Vietnamese women married Taiwanese men each year, although government and NGO observers believed that most were not trafficked.
Poor women and teenage girls, especially those from rural areas, were most at risk for being trafficked. It appeared that most trafficking victims came from some Mekong Delta provinces, such as Can Tho and An Giang and some northern provinces, such as Quang Ninh. Some were sold by their families as domestic workers or for sexual exploitation. In some cases, traffickers paid families several hundred dollars (a large sum for many families) in exchange for allowing their daughter to go to Cambodia for an "employment offer." Many victims faced strong pressure to make significant contributions to the family income. Others were offered lucrative jobs by acquaintances. False advertising, debt bondage, confiscation of documents, and threats of deportation were other methods commonly used by the traffickers, spouses, and employers.
Individual opportunists and informal networks, as well as some organized groups, lured poor, often rural, women with promises of jobs or marriage and forced them to work as prostitutes (see Section 5). The Government stated that organized criminal groups were involved in recruitment, transit, and other trafficking-related activities.
Corruption was a serious problem at all levels, and some officials were involved in the flow of overseas workers into exploitative conditions or into trafficking. While it was likely that some individual officials assisted traffickers, there was no evidence of official, institutional, or government involvement in trafficking in persons. Unlike in previous years, there were no reports that government officials and associated private individuals were convicted of and sentenced for trafficking related crimes during the year.
Official institutions, including MOLISA, the Women's Union, the Youth Union and the Committee for Population, Family and Children, had active programs in place aimed at prevention and victims' protection. These programs included publicity to warn women and girls of these dangers, repatriation programs to help female returnees, and vocational training for teenage girls in communities considered vulnerable to trafficking in persons. Government agencies worked closely with the International Organization for Migration and a number of other international NGOs to provide temporary shelter, some medical services, education, credit, counseling, and rehabilitation to returned trafficking victims. In March 2002, government officials held a series of meetings with their Chinese counterparts to improve victim protection and repatriation processes. During the year, Government officials held similar meetings with the Cambodian Government. The country also participated in an ILO project on child trafficking in the Mekong region.
Although trafficking victims in general were not treated as criminals, some women trafficked into prostitution were prosecuted for prostitution or placed in rehabilitation centers.
Security agencies with border control responsibility have also received training in investigative techniques that can be used to prevent trafficking.
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