Sexism rampant in Viet Nam: UN

As published in Viet Nam News on 10/3/ 2010

Ha Noi — Viet Nam has made great strides in terms of economic performance, but at the same time, there are signs of rising economic inequality and disparity in the country.

The statement was made by United Nations Resident Co- ordinator John Hendra at a conference to launch the Asia- Pacific Human Development Report on Gender.

This was backed up by figures provided by the UN on three aspects of gender inequality in Viet Nam: economic power, political voice and legal rights.

In Viet Nam, women make up 46.6 per cent of the workforce but most women work in the informal sector which is not covered by social protection.

Furthermore, as more than half of working women are unpaid family workers, they receive no direct income. Those who are paid earn only 87 per cent of the hourly wage received by men.

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)'s first nationwide family survey, Vietnamese women do not have an equal say in decision-making at the household level, and have a lower level of ownership and control over key assets, such as houses, land and large-scale purchases.

Besides, only a few Vietnamese women hold important political positions. Though Viet Nam has the highest rate of female participation in the National Assembly among ASEAN countries, women are not well-represented in senior decision-making in the Party and in the administration: only one minister and five deputy ministers are women.

Vietnamese women are also hindered by their retirement age of 55, while that for men is 60.

This might not only limit women's chances of promotion and access to training, but also discourage employers from hiring women, the review of Vietnamese legal documents by the United Nations Development Fund for Women said.

To make the situation even worse, a recent study by the Supreme People's Court estimated that 21 per cent of couples experience domestic violence. Almost two-thirds of women believe it is acceptable for men to beat their wives, the General Statistics Office 2006 Survey said.

"The silence and stigma that surround violence against women is so strong that many women are afraid to speak out," Hendra said.

He suggested that it was necessary to ensure that all Vietnamese families value girls equally with boys and invest in their capabilities and well-being.

Threat to survival
The 2010 Asia-Pacific Human Development Report (Power, Voice and Rights: a Turning Point for Gender Equality in Asia and the Pacific) found that discrimination and neglect were threatening women's very survival in the Asia-Pacific region, where women suffered from some of the world's lowest rates of political representation, employment and property ownership.

It provided recommendations for action across the three areas covered (power, voice and rights) including removing barriers to women's ownership of assets, expanding paid employment, making migration safe and investing in high-quality education and health.