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Nguyen Huu Linh to Face Trial for Sexually Harassing Young Girl in Elevator

Almost two months after the incident occurred, Saigon authorities have officially moved forward with the child sexual harassment case that has attracted significant public attention.

As Tuoi Tre reports, Head of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Procuracy Duong Ngoc Hai confirmed last Wednesday that District 4 officials completed the indictment of 61-year-old Nguyen Huu Linh for sexually harassing a minor. At the time of writing, the date of the trial hasn’t been confirmed yet.

Under Vietnam’s Penal Code, sexually harassing a minor under 16 years old can land an offender in jail for six months to three years. The sentence, however, doesn’t apply to cases involving rape and other forms of penetrative sex, which can result in heavier punishments.

On April 1, security officers of the Galaxy 9 apartment in District 4 spotted a middle-aged man in an elevator with a young girl via CCTV footage. The clip shows him aggressively hugging and kissing the girl’s face, despite her clear discomfort. The actions occur three times and only end when she gets out of the elevator. The child alerted her parents who then contacted the security department to help identify the man.

The man was later confirmed to be Nguyen Huu Linh, who lives in Da Nang and was visiting his son’s home in the same building in Saigon. Linh used to work in the government of Da Nang, but retired in 2018 and recently joined the Da Nang Bar Association to work as a lawyer. An excerpt of the CCTV clip surfaced online on April 2, sparking outrage among netizens.

When questioned by the local police department, Linh confirmed that he is the man in the clip, but said that his actions were not sexually motivated; he was tipsy and touched her because she was “cute.”

The case has made national headlines, as people became impatient while waiting for news of the prosecution. Some frustrated Da Nang residents even vandalized Linh's front gate by spraying the word "pedophile" in Vietnamese. Residents of Galaxy 9 Apartment, where the incident occurred, signed a petition directed to authorities urging them to expedite the prosecution of the man.

Senior Colonel Nguyen Huu Cau from the Police Department of Nghe An Province told Thanh Nien that ambiguity is the biggest challenge in tackling sexual harassment cases in Vietnam. Currently, Vietnam doesn’t have definitions specific enough to detail which types of actions constitute sexual harassment. Cases involving minor victims are also difficult to investigate because children tend to lack the ability to recount the harassment as clearly as adults, Cau explained.

Following the incident, the Supreme People’s Court is reportedly working on a draft bill that would expand the definition of child sexual harassment in the Penal Code. At the moment, under Article 146 of the code, harassment is defined with genitalia-centric language, meaning offenders could potentially get away with just touching the arms or neck of victims, for example.

In the new draft bill, child sexual harassment, or dâm ô trẻ em in Vietnamese, is described as actions carried out by the perpetrator for sexual pleasure, not including penetrative sex, with a minor under 16 years of age. These consist of touching, groping, kissing on sensitive zones (genitalia, chest, face, head, thigh, butt, etc.) of a minor. The actions could be done directly, or indirectly through clothing. Forcing a minor to pleasure the offender or anybody else will also be counted as sexual harassment.

[Photo via Zing]

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