Women and Confucianism

Ancient rules requiring women to obey men undercut new laws

HA NOI — The anti-domestic violence law went into effect last year, but many couple confess that they do not care to abide by the law.

The country had built laws and actively taken part in international conventions to protect women from domestic violence, said lawyer Le Thi Ngan Giang, who helped compile the statute.

However, Giang admitted that Confucian culture, which teaches women to depend o­n and obey men, had been in practice for thousands of years and still had a strong influence o­n society now.

Today, Viet Nam celebrates the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women.

Bruce Campbell, a representative from the United Nations in Viet Nam, announced that the organisation was launching the Partners for Asia-Pacific region. The programme hopes to change men’s attitudes toward women.

Despite domestic and international efforts to spread these programme and laws, many men and women still do not abide by these principles.

Nguyen Hoang Nguyen, who works for the FPT corporation in Ha Noi, said a majority of men were very rude to women, therefore their wives should know how to treat their husband. Nguyen said that men preferred and loved gentle women, and so women should not be rude. If they argued with men with bad words, then they would not o­nly be scolded but beaten also.

"I feel sorry when my wife cries," said Nguyen, but he admitted that he would never forgive her if she talked back. "If the wife does not listen to her husband, then what kind of the family is that."

Nguyen said that he, along with many men, did not care about the law. Under Article 2 of the law, disparaging remarks against women are also considered offences against women. However, Nguyen thought scolding women, even with the most vulgar words, was not violence.

Nguyen Thi Lan, 39, from Hai Phong earns tens of millions of dong per month and supports her entire family, which includes her unemployed husband. Although Lan’s husband is unproductive, he continues to scold her with bad words.

Lan was aware of the new law, but said: "It is my fate, no law can help. I cannot call the police every day when he says dirty words to me because he never beats me."

"I wish I had a husband that loved and treated me good but I don’t." She added that she would be crazy to divorce him for this reason.

"Many women are in this situation but keep it a secret. They will continue to suffer for the rest of their life." Instead, the woman assumed that her husband had some kind of mental disease that needs to be cured.

"There are so many women and men that share the same thoughts about this issue," said Do Thi Minh Chau, an official from the United Nations Population Fund. Chau said in order to further educate people about this issue, they were working with the Voice of Viet Nam radio to broadcast "Desire to Live." The show has 104 episodes about domestic violence and will be broadcast so that even women and men in remote areas of Viet Nam will be able to access.

Lawyer Le Thi Ngan Giang said it was difficult to appraise the effectiveness of the law after o­ne year. Most of the cases were not solved because of the weak co-operation between functional agencies.

Andrienne Reilly, an expert o­n the issue, said there was a gap between the law and reality in every country in the world, therefore it would take more time for the law to have an effect in Viet Nam.

Representatives from the women’s union in Ha Noi suggested the Government to issue heavier punishments against offenders.

Nguyen Thi Thuy, director of the Peaceful House, a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Ha Noi, said victims from eight to 75 years old seeked support at the shelter.

The house has already consulted more than 1,200 victims in the first 10 months of this year, which is an increase of 130 per cent from the total number of victims in 2008. Chau, an official from UNFPA, said if many people did not know about the law, then domestic violence against women would continue to be widespread.

by Minh Huong