Opening Remarks by Ms. Louise Chamberlain, UNDP Country Director at the Legal Policy Dialogue on Reviewing the Draft Law on Civil Status from a Human Rights-Based Perspective

19 Mar 2014

Event:   Legal Policy Dialogue on Reviewing the Draft Law on Civil Status from a Human Rights-Based Perspective
Date:     19 March 2014
Venue:  Melia Hotel, Ha Noi    

Excellency, Mr. Hoàng Thế Liên, Vice Minister of Justice
Mr. Nguyễn Văn Tiên, Vice Chair of the Committee of Social Affairs of the National Assembly
Distinguished representatives of the National Assembly, Supreme Ministry of Justice and other justice institutions
Colleagues from development partners and civil society organizations
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning and thank you all for coming.

UNDP is pleased to support this dialogue on the Draft Law on Civil Status together with the Ministry of Justice. I would like to thank my co-chair and Ministry colleague for excellent work as always in organizing this event and willingness to engage in substantive exchange with partners on legislative challenges in Viet Nam. The new human rights chapter of the 2013 Constitution creates the foundation for state bodies at all levels to deliver public services that allow people to enjoy equal rights without any form of discrimination based on sex, ethnicity, geographical location of social or economic status. Laws that conform to the 2013 Constitution will provide the basis for state bodies to deliver equal treatment to its citizens, including on civil status matters.

Aligning therefore the laws and practices with international human rights standards drive and can contribute to more sustainable and equitable growth. As a member of the Human Rights Council Viet Nam has a window of opportunity during the next three years to demonstrate how the country is implementing its commitments into national laws, policies and public services for all.  

Ladies and gentlemen, our Legal Policy Dialogue is very timely given that the Draft Law on Civil Status will be under review at the next National Assembly session. I would like to acknowledge the Ministry of Justice’s very proactive approach in preparing the Draft Law on Civil Status as well as the revisions of the Law on Family and Marriage. The UN in Viet Nam supports the Ministry, the National Assembly and civil society in drafting these laws with a view to strengthen the promotion of human rights in Viet Nam, we welcome in particular the intent to ensure the elimination of all forms for discrimination on the grounds of  gender, sex, family or marital status.

The Law on Civil Status is of particular importance because the civil status of a person has an impact on civil rights matters, and more broadly on a person’s ability to exercise other rights such as education, health and social benefits.
We are pleased that the proposed changes will help to simplify civil status registration services and empower administrative officials in this regard and we hope this will translate into more efficient provision of services to citizens on this issue. Strengthened civil status of citizens is in the interest of both state and citizens!

We know that some of the key remaining challenges include the consistent introduction of the principles of equality and non-discrimination throughout the law, in particular in relation to marriage and de-facto partnerships, the rights of children, migrant workers and other marginalized groups such as lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual persons.   

My colleague Ms. Shoko Ishikawa, Representative of UN Women in Viet Nam, will present the UN’s recommendations on the law later this morning, and she will speak to us on the importance of gender equality in marriage,  and the need to better regulate the legal situation of people living together in de facto unions. I look forward to an active discussion on our recommendations.  

In addition to taking a human rights based approach, we would like to encourage the lawmakers to offer enough time to conduct public consultations on the draft law to give people a chance to raise their perspectives as the end users of the law. This will help to ensure that the law is anchored in the realities of modern Vietnamese society, including of those of marginalized groups.

Finally, I hope that today’s discussion will generate concrete suggestions on how to achieve a more robust Law on Civil Status that fully embraces and protects the rights of all citizens.

Let me end by wishing for a very productive dialogue this morning! Let us bring out all perspectives and I hope we will have a frank and very interactive exchange.

Thank you