UNDP highlights gender inequality

As published in Viet Nam News on 23 September, 2011

HA NOI — More efforts need to be made in ensuring gender equality across the justice sector to better protect women's rights, experts suggested at yesterday's fourth legal policy dialogue between Viet Nam and the United Nations Development Programme.

The forum gathers the international community and their Vietnamese counterparts on a quarterly basis to discuss key challenges facing the justice sector.

"Women are often poorly represented in important decision-making positions that are central to translating laws and policies into practice," UN Resident Coordinator Eamonn Murphy said in his opening remarks, citing figures revealing that less than a third of all judges in Viet Nam and only four of the 63 provincial court presidents are women.

Viet Nam passed its Gender Equality Law in 2006, which set an important foundation for including gender quality into law-making, according to Nguyen Thuy Anh, deputy chairwoman of the National Assembly's Social Affairs Committee.

However, she said that many of those implementing the law had limited understanding about gender equality. In addition, a shortage of gender equality experts and data required to include gender mainstreaming in law making had also hindered progress in the support of women's rights, she added.

According to a 2011 survey on law enforcement practices and legal support to female victims of domestic violence in Vietnam, conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), only 43 per cent of all domestic violence cases disclosed in the study (900 victims in nine provinces and cities) were reported.

Reasons for not reporting to the police included shame and embarrassment, and many of the victims thinking their cases too minor, the study found.

"This results emphasise the importance of training authorities on how to deal with domestic violence while better informing potential victims about their rights related to protection and state assistance," said Daria Hagemann, a UNODC expert.

Amarsanaa Darisuren, human rights specialist and coordinator of the United Nations Development Fund for Women for East and Southeast Asia, said that progressive laws and functioning justice systems were the foundation for gender equality, providing the means for women to demand accountability.

"When there are laws in place on domestic violence, fewer people think that violence against women is justifiable," she said. Darisuren added that countries could increase women's rights in the justice sector by implementing gender-sensitive law reforms, putting women in the frontline of law enforcement and increasing their access to courts.

Murphy stressed the importance of the justice sector in protecting women's rights as gender equality has been considered one of the eight most important Millenium Development Goals.

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