Women approve of new gender law, but inequality still rampant

Viet Nam’s new Law on Gender Equality, to take effect in July, would greatly improve the advancement of women, said the head of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam (NCFAW), Ha Thi Khiet.

"However, gender inequalities remain in education while new challenges arising from the nation’s moves towards a market economy have exacerbated problems relating to prostitution and the trafficking of women," said Khiet.

The comments were made by Khiet at a meeting in Ha Noi o­n Friday, where participants heard that a recent Vietnamese report o­n implementation of the Convention o­n the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) had stood up to scrutiny by the United Nations head office in New York.

Khiet, who is also the head of a Vietnamese delegation in charge of reporting o­n Viet Nam’s implementation of CEDAW to the Committee o­n the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, said about 30 countries throughout the world had passed laws o­n gender equality.

Khiet said challenges remained in implementing the convention.

"We, as women, are not yet content with many things which are impeding the advancement of women," she said.

Gender stereotyping and societal attitudes that place men above women continue. Female children and ethnic minority women have more problems accessing education than their male counterparts. The rate of women in leadership positions remains too low.

Khiet said new challenges arising from the negative impacts of a market economy include growing problems with the trafficking of women for prostitution.

Regarding a common understanding about CEDAW, Khiet said these difficulties were hampering the country’s efforts in bringing the convention into full play, partly in translating it into ethnic minority languages.

At the dialogue with CEDAW committee experts, Khiet said she hoped that international countries would help Viet Nam address the problem.

Participants at the meeting were informed that Viet Nam was a leading country in terms of boosting women’s participation in economic activities. Among East Asia nations, Viet Nam has rapidly decreased the gender gap during the last 20 years.

At present, 83 per cent of women have engaged in economic activities, while for men the figure is 85 per cent.

Noting that gender equality was a target of the National Programme o­n Education towards 2015, Khiet said funds allocated for education had increased from 15 per cent in 2000 to over 19 per cent of the annual State budget in 2006.

Viet Nam had established legal and institutional frameworks o­n health care, she said, noting that in 2005, more than 90 per cent of women had access to medical services and the health of pregnant women had improved.

The Prime Minister had also decided to allocate VND40 billion to the Women’s Union to establish a support fund to help women living in poverty.

Khiet said that with these successes, Viet Nam was able to be proud of the position of its women, who have continuously received admiration from international friends.

This is Viet Nam’s third dialogue session with the CEDAW committee.  

by Hong Thuy