HCMC legal group advocates for children’s rights

For children and needy families embattled in legal issues in Ho Chi Minh City, the District 11 Lawyer Association offers free services.

Lawyer Nguyen Hong Phuong (R) from the District 11 Lawyer Association, speaks with a client in HCMC. The organization specializes in offering free legal services to needy children and their families.(Photo:SGGP)

The main aim of the organization is to protect children’s legal rights, although the group also provides free counseling services for children and their parents.

Lawyer Nguyen Hong Phuong, a member of the group, said the association works closely with both children and their families to help them better understand their rights in regards to legal issues.

Last year for instance, Tran Thi T came to the association asking for help in regaining custody of her son.

Two years ago, the young mother got married and had a child. When her son turned one, T’s husband left her to raise the infant and take care of her elderly mother. With no one to turn to for financial support, T began working as a prostitute to support her family.

She was caught by authorities, however, and T’s son was taken away from her and sent to an orphanage. The woman was then sent to the Phu Nghia Social Labor Education center, an institution that provides vocational training for women in need.

After leaving the center, T hoped to regain custody of her son, but by then she had lost all documentation, including her child’s birth certificate, proving that she was his mother.

With a team of legal experts, the group helped T take back her son and the two now enjoy a better life together.

In another case, the association helped a young mother reclaim her nine-month-old from her estranged husband’s family.

Nguyen Thu H, 17, had a baby when she was just 16. At the time, her 26-year-old husband had no job and was dependant on his parents for support.

She thus decided to move back in with her parents who would help her raise the baby while she looked for a job. But a few months later, her husband’s parents unexpectedly took the child from H and refused to give it back.

After asking the group for help, H was able to regain custody of her baby.

Such cases are just a few among many who have received free legal help from the organization, and who would otherwise be powerless to improve their situations.

Effective efforts

The District 11 Lawyer Association decided to establish the specialized division to help needy children and their families in 2000, after recognizing a need for such services.

Tran Thi Phung, chairwoman of the association, said many children had problems or committed crimes because they did not understand the law or came from dysfunctional families.

The group was formed to deal specifically with such cases and provide much-needed legal services for minors and their families.

In addition, the association coordinates with local authorities and schools to organize special activities and raise public awareness about legal issues related to children and the community at large.

The activities also help empower minors by teaching them about their legal rights and how to protect themselves.

By Thanh Hop, translated by Son Hai

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