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Official Gazette

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Vietnamese law on protection of children’s rights

Updated: 09:41’ - 11/10/2005

Associate Professor, Hanoi National University Law Faculty


Protection, care and education of children constitute a moral tradition of the Vietnamese people as well as a principle underpinning the line of the Communist Party of Vietnam and the laws of the Vietnamese State. Over the past 60 years, great achievements have been made in the cause of protection, care and education of children.

Many humanitarian provisions on child protection can be traced back to the Hong Duc Penal Code under the dynasty of Emperor Le Thanh Tong on the handling of juvenile delinquents. Article 17 of the Code stated: “When a minor commits a crime and such commission is detected only when he/she has matured, such person shall be punished according to the law applicable to minors.” The Code also contained other provisions on the protection of orphans against infringements and of girls against sexual abuse. According to Article 404 of the Code, “Those who have sexual intercourse with a girl under 12 years, even with her consent, shall be punished like rapists.”

Over the past sixty years, under the regime of a democratic republic, the Vietnamese State has promulgated many policies and laws directly or indirectly relating to children such as the Constitution, the Law on Marriage and Family, the Law on Protection of the People’s Health, the Penal Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Law on Protection, Care and Education of Children, the Labor Code, the Education Law, and the Ordinance on Handling of Administrative Violations. These legal documents have formed a legal setting for the exercise of children’s rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Vietnam was the second country in the world and the first in Asia to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on February 20, 1990. So far, Vietnam has participated in 8 out of 23 international conventions on human rights. Vietnam has also carried out various socio-legal activities in implementing the Convention. At a national conference on children’s rights held in December 1992, a national program of action for children for the 1991-2000 period was adopted, leading to the establishment of a National Committee for Children Protection and Care, a state management body attached to the Government. Under the direction of the Government, many programs for children care, protection and education have been implemented throughout the country, such as a program on immunization against six childhood diseases, an anti-nutrition program and a program for protection of children in special circumstances. Child protection and care activity has been widely socialized. A national program of action for children was implemented in the 1991-2000 period and has been adopted for the 2001-2010 period; a program of action for children in special circumstances was also implemented in the 1999-2002 period; and training courses in children’s rights have been held. A month of action for children from May 19 to June 30 is organized every year. Social awareness of children’s rights has been increased through song contests, paintings and quizzes about children’s rights. Children’s participation has been encouraged through children’ rights forums, clubs of child reporters, children-to-children activities and in the mass media.


The Vietnamese law on children’s rights has been regularly amended consistent with the country’s social context, in order to pay more profound attention to guaranteeing and protecting children’s rights and ensuring compliance with the principles of international law on children’s rights. A law exclusively dealing with the protection, care and education of children has been enacted. The scope of regulation of the law on children has been also expanded, covering the rights and duties of children, responsibilities of the State, families and society for protecting, caring for and educating children, legal liability for infringements upon children’s rights and violations committed by children. Humanism has become a principle for reforming the system of legal provisions on legal liability of juvenile delinquents. At the same time, legal liability measures have become more stringent against violations of children’s rights.

Children’s rights have been perpetuated and developed from the first Constitution promulgated in 1946 to the 1992 Constitution. The 1992 Constitution’s Chapter V on “Fundamental rights and obligations of citizens” contains 34 articles, 25 of which provide for basic civil rights directly or indirectly related to children’s rights. Article 65 of the Constitution states: “Children are protected, cared for and protected by families, the State and society.” Article 59 states: “The State and society shall create conditions for children with disabilities to have general education and learn suitable jobs. The State and society shall facilitate gifted pupils to learn and develop their talents.”

The current Law on Vietnamese Nationality provides for principles and conditions for ensuring children’s right to nationality. Apart from nationality, in civil status registration, children have the right to birth registration, one of the first important rights of children, a basis and condition for children to exercise their other fundamental rights. Under civil status law, registration of birth of out-of-wedlock infants, abandoned babies, babies who died shortly after birth, etc., shall be made according to general procedures. It is the spirit of law that maximum efforts should be made for abandoned infants to be registered.

The 2000 Law on Marriage and Family made significant steps towards better protecting legitimate rights and interests of children. It laid down basic principles that the State, society and families have the responsibility to protect women and children and that discrimination between children, boys and girls, natural and adopted children, or legitimate and out-of-wedlock children is prohibited. The Law stipulates that parents have the obligation as well as right to love, take care of and raise their children, protect their legitimate rights and interests, and educate them to ensure their physical, spiritual, mental and moral development. Parents must neither induce nor coerce their children to act in contravention of law and social ethics. It also provides for the significance of and conditions for the adoption of children and legal procedures for recognition of adoption.

Article 55 of the Civil Code states that, at birth, everyone shall have the right to birth registration regardless of legitimate or illegitimate birth, and abandoned infants also have the right to birth registration. The regime of guardianship provided for in the Civil Code has expressed the profound concern of the State and society for minors, particularly children under 15 years living in extremely difficult circumstances and those who have lost their capacity to act.

Criminal law has been an effective tool for protecting the interests of women and children from infringements, embodying humanism for female and child offenders. According to the provisions on juvenile delinquents in Chapter X of the 1999 Penal Code, penal punishments shall be only imposed on those who are  between 14 and under 16 years old. Minors shall only bear penal liability for very serious offenses they have committed intentionally or for particularly serious offenses. Life imprisonment or capital punishment as well as additional penalties, shall not be applied to minor offenders. Specific and stringent punishments have been also meted out for infringements upon children’s rights. For example, those who murder women with the knowledge that the victims are pregnant or those who murder children may face death sentences. Cruel treatment of dependent children shall be considered an aggravating circumstance and offenders may face up to three years in prison.

The law on handling of administrative violations has also been of a humane nature, reflecting the responsibility of the community for protecting and educating children with a view to ensuring the best interests of children appropriate to their physiological characteristics. According to the Ordinance on Handling of Administrative Violations, the age for bearing administrative liability is full 14 years or more. Violators aged between full 16 and under 18 years shall face no more than half of the fine imposed on adults for the same violations.

Labor law has also seen important developments in the protection, care and education of children. As a full-fledged member of the International Labor Organization. Vietnam has ratified many conventions of this organization. The Vietnamese Labor Code has a chapter on minor laborers which provides for prohibited acts and binding obligations of labor users in employing child labor. For example, it stipulates that children may only be employed for jobs suitable to their health so as to ensure their physical, mental and personality development.


Policies on children protection, care and education were legalized in the Law on Child Protection, Care and Education, enacted in 2004. Having perpetuated the provisions of a similarly styled law promulgated in 1991, this Law has fully complied with the principles of international law on children and responded to the requirements of life. Under the Law, child protection, care and education must be based on principles of non-discrimination and guarantee of the best interests of children to exercise their rights and duties for full and harmonious physical, intellectual, mental and moral development, and to live in a safe and healthy environment. The fundamental rights and duties of children, such as the right to birth registration and nationality, the right to care and nurture, the right to respect for and protection of their lives, bodies, dignity and honor, the right to healthcare, and the right to learn, are defined in Chapter II of the Law. The responsibilities of society, families, mass organizations and local authorities for protecting, caring for and educating children are also provided in a separate chapter to ensure that children can enjoy their 10 fundamental rights. The Law also contains provisions on the duties of children, such as love and respect for grandparents, parents and teachers, helping the old and weak, protecting the environment, respect for law, etc. It also provides for prohibited acts, including abandonment of children by their parents, inducement of children to act in contravention of ethics and law, etc. These provisions have expressed the fine traditions and morality of the Vietnamese people to save the best for children, and have reflected the reasonable application of the principle “For the best interests of children” laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.   


The Vietnamese law on children has made great contributions to the cause of child protection, care and education, fully expressing the principles of the UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child. Over the past years, our State and society have implemented many programs and policies to deal with children’s problems. Millions of children in particularly difficult circumstances have been protected and their living conditions have been improved. Every year, over 200,000 children with disabilities receive social relief; 55,000 orphans enjoy subsistence allowances; about 44% children with disabilities are provided with rehabilitation care; and nearly one million children of poor families enjoy school fee exemption or reduction.

The law on children, however, still reveals many weaknesses and constraints, particularly in the enforcement aspect. Infringements of children’s legitimate rights and interests have increased and become more complicated. Juvenile delinquents, minor offenders, street children, child laborers, and children engaged in social evils such as drugs, prostitution, etc., have become pressing problems. There remains a big gap between legal provisions on children and their actual enforcement.

In the near future, Vietnam will focus on the following major activities:

1. Continuing amendment and perfection of legal provisions to ensure and protect children’s rights in accordance with the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with priority given to the rights to healthcare, material life, culture and education.

2. Developing mechanisms for coordination among the State, society, economic organizations, and voluntary and non-governmental organizations in the implementation of children’s rights.

3. Promoting inspection and supervision by the State and society of the handling of infringements of children’s rights, such as child trafficking, violence against children, etc.

4. Increasing inspection of the implementation of the Labor Code and the Law on Marriage and Family so that children can better enjoy their interests.

5. Encouraging enterprises and social organizations to make contributions to the fund for protection, care and education of children.

6. Making preparations for setting up a juvenile court in Vietnam.

7. Disseminating information and education on the law on children’s rights.-


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A “painting” on rice fields in Tam Coc