17 January 2007
General Assembly
WOM/1593

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Committee on Elimination of

Discrimination against Women

Chamber B, 759th & 760th Meetings (AM & PM)


NEW LAW ON GENDER EQUALITY WILL GREATLY IMPROVE VIET NAM’S LEGAL REGIME


FOR WOMEN’S ADVANCEMENT, ANTI-DISCRIMINATION COMMITTEE TOLD


Committee Experts Praise Country’s Intentions

But Call for More Analysis on Progress in Implementation of Treaty Provision


The Law on Gender Equality, to take effect in July, would greatly improve the legal system on gender equality and women’s advancement, Ha Thi Khiet, Chairperson of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam (NCFAW) and Head of the Vietnamese Delegation, told the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as it considered Viet Nam’s combined fifth and sixth periodic report.


The 23-member Committee monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against women.


The new law, passed in November, defined key aspects of gender equality in all areas of social and family life, measures to promote gender equality, responsibilities of all public and private agencies, and oversight of violations.


Discussing various measures to promote equality, she highlighted the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam as an example of the institutionalization of gender equality targets.  It set out 5 objectives and 20 quantitative targets to eliminate discrimination and ensure women’s equal rights in the fields of labour, employment, education and health care; to improve the quality of women’s participation in economic, political and social fields; and to enhance the capacity of national machinery for the advancement of women.


Among other achievements to promote gender equality, she cited a joint study by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and Canada’s International Development Agency naming Viet Nam a leading country in terms of the ratio of women’s participation in economic activities, and among the fastest in East Asia to decrease the gender gap in the last 20 years.


A flurry of new legislation had also been passed, including the 2005 Complaint and Denunciation Law, and revisions had been made to the Land Law, which gave women the same rights as their husbands to land titles.


While the 10-member delegation was praised for progress in promoting women in the high court, developing anti-trafficking measures and applying the 2002 Marriage Law to ethnic minorities, delegates were questioned as to why the report failed to elaborate on concrete policies and programmes to implement article 2 of the Convention on policy measures, article 7 on political and public life –- particularly as it concerned the right of Vietnamese women to vote -- and article 5 on stereotypes.  Instead, the report focused on good intentions, Committee experts said.  More analysis on progress in implementation was needed.


One expert noted a discrepancy on the issue of rural communities having a high number of hospitals and high access to water, yet having high rates of maternal mortality.  She asked how those statistics had been produced and whether other information was available.


On the possibility of Viet Nam’s signing of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, one delegate said that, while Viet Nam fully agreed with its goals, particularly its emphasis on fighting systematic violations of the rights of women, the country had reservations relating to sovereignty.   Viet Nam would take the Protocol under careful consideration and domestic laws would need to be amended.


The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 18 January to consider Nicaragua’s sixth periodic report.


Background


The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women held parallel meetings today to consider the reports of Viet Nam and Namibia.  For additional background, see Press Release WOM/1589 of 15 January.


Chamber B -– Presentation of Viet Nam’s Report


Viet Nam’s delegation was headed by Ha Thi Khiet, Chairperson of the National Committee for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam (NCFAW) and included:  Le Luong Minh, Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations; Tran Thi Mai Huong, First Vice-Chairperson of NCFAW; Nguyen Thi Kim Lien, Vice-Chairperson of the Viet Nam Women’s Union; Duong Thi Thanh Mai, Director of the Institute of Law Research of the Ministry of Justice; Nguyen Tat Thanh, Minister Counsellor and Deputy Permanent Representative of Viet Nam to the United Nations; Vu Anh Quang, Deputy Director of the Department of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Pham Nguyen Cuong, Deputy Director for the Advancement of Women of the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; Pham Hai Anh, Third Secretary of the Permanent Mission of Viet Nam to the United Nations; and Hoang Thi Thu Huyen, Member of the NCFAW.


HA THI KHIET, Chairperson of NCFAW and Head of the Vietnamese Delegation, introduced Viet Nam’s combined fifth and sixth National Report, covering that country’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women during the 2000-2003 period.


Announcing that all national reports on international treaties and conventions to which Viet Nam was party would be submitted to the National Assembly for adoption, she said further development of the rule of law to ensure human rights had created better conditions for women to participate and benefit equally in the development process.


The principles of equality, non-discrimination between men and women, and fighting gender-related prejudices in the family and society had been included in the Constitution and detailed in all new legal documents, she said.  The Vietnamese National Assembly’s adoption of the Law on Gender Equality on 26 November 2006 had greatly improved the legal system on gender equality and women’s advancement, and would come into effect on 1 July 2007.  It defined key aspects of gender equality in all areas of social and family life, measures to promote gender equality, responsibilities of all agencies and oversight of violations.


Discussing various measures to promote equality, she highlighted the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women in Viet Nam as an example of the institutionalization of gender equality targets.  It set out 5 objectives and 20 quantitative targets to eliminate discrimination and ensure women’s equal rights in the fields of labour employment, education and health care; to improve the quality of women’s participation in economic, political and social fields; and to enhance the capacity of national machinery for the advancement of women.


The Government had also applied measures to promote equality, particularly concerning the retirement age, retirement benefits and social insurance policies, among other things.  Further, NCFAW had been consolidated and counselled the Prime Minister on legal and policy matters, she added.

Achievements in the last five years to promote gender equality and enhance women’s roles in the family and society were significant, she said.  Gender gaps in most political, economic and social areas had been narrowed, and women had occupied 49 per cent of the labour force.  Citing a study by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and Canada’s International Development Agency, she said Viet Nam was among the leading countries in terms of the ratio of women’s participation in economic activities, and was one of the fastest East Asian countries in decreasing the gender gap in the last 20 years.  The number of women in managerial or leadership positions had also increased.


Noting that gender equality was a target of the National Programme on Education towards 2015, she added that funds allocated for education had increased from 15 per cent in 2000 to over 19 per cent 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.  Moreover, the Prime Minister had decided to allocate 40 billion dong ($2.6 million) to the Women’s Union to establish a support fund for poverty reduction for poor women.


Challenges remained in implementing the Convention, she said.  Gender stereotyping and societal attitudes of preferring males over females continued.  Access to education by female children and women of ethnic minorities was more obstructed than for boys.  Law enforcement was difficult and oversight was loose.  The rate of women in leadership positions remained low compared to the number of women in society.  Health-care services for women, especially for ethnic minority women in remote areas, were insufficient and abuse in the family was still considered a private matter.  Further, new challenges arising from the negative impacts of a market economy had facilitated the problem of trafficking in women for prostitution.


To overcome those issues, NCFAW planned to propose measures.  It was essential to improve legal mechanisms and build NCFAW’s capacity.  The Vietnamese Women’s Union should consolidate its role as the representative of women’s interests.  It was also important to accelerate integration of gender perspectives into all socio-economic development targets, enhance awareness of gender equality, particularly in rural areas, mobilize international resources and cooperate with other countries to combat trafficking in women and children.


Experts’ Questions and Comments –- Articles 1-6


During the ensuing dialogue, HAZEL GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, asked why the 2003 Law on Gender Equality had taken two years to come into force.  What issues had to be addressed prior to its passage?  Did the Law include a strategy to assist minority women?


Did the revised Land Law and Statue of Social Insurance apply retrospectively, she asked.  Had the introduction of land use certificates been presented in a way to ensure women had equal rights to land inheritance as men?


She asked whether the caseload of gender discrimination complaints had increased since inception of the 2005 Complaint and Denunciation Law.  If not, what monitoring and evaluation was being conducted to ensure that women were making effective use of the Law?  How did the Law on Marriage and Family address ethnic minorities and how did it ensure that ethnic women’s voices were heard?


Why was there a strong female workers union movement, she asked.  Was it because the traditional labour movement was ineffectual in addressing female workers’ issues?  Were there more female workers in the Viet Nam Women’s Union than in traditional workers unions?  To what degree was information on the advancement of women, such as on human rights, national initiatives for women’s empowerment and the text and implications of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women translated into languages of ethnic minorities?


Committee Chairwoman, DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked about Viet Nam’s plans to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention.  Also, were international treaties that Viet Nam had ratified directly applicable or did they need to be incorporated into domestic law first?  Did the Law on Gender Equality contain a definition of discrimination?


MARIA REGINA TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, said the country report failed to elaborate on concrete policies and programmes to implement article 2 of the Convention on policy measures, article 7 on political and public life –- particularly as it concerned the right of Vietnamese women to vote -- and article 5 on stereotypes.  Instead, the report focused on good intentions.  She requested more analysis on Viet Nam’s progress in implementation.


FRANCOISE GASPARD, expert from France, expressed concern over the delegation’s understanding of article 1 of the Convention on special measures.  Concerning articles 7 and 8, she was pleased that the country report revealed that more women held political posts, but said it focused on Viet Nam’s objectives in promoting women in politics.  What concrete measures had been taken to achieve those objectives?


MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, said that, while the country report stated that school textbooks had been revised, it failed to discuss other steps taken to address gender stereotypes.  What immediate steps were being taken to educate men and young boys, particularly in rural areas, where sex stereotypes were prevalent?  She expressed concern that the country report did not mention any specific mass media strategy to address gender stereotypes.  Was that information available?


Country Response


Concerning the Law on Gender Equality, a delegate said in November 2003 that the National Assembly had been hammering out the proposed Law.  At that time, several civil society organizations -– including the Viet Nam Women’s Union -– had put forth proposals for what should be included in the new law.  The Union’s initiative was well received and incorporated into the text.  From 2004 to 2006, legislators had drafted the text.  Many countries spent as much as 15 years drafting a gender equality law, she said, stressing that the two year period Viet Nam had needed to formulate its law was relatively small.


Concerning ethnic minorities, she said the Law on Gender Equality included special measures to address their needs and that the English version of the text would be distributed to the Committee in a few minutes.


Regarding women’s land rights, the delegate said under the revised Land Law women had the same rights as their husbands to land titles.  Land certificates had been revised to include the names of women -– not just the names of their husbands.


Another delegate said article 5 of the Law on Gender Equality contained a definition of discrimination and gender equality.


As to Viet Nam’s application of international treaties, she said that indeed international law superseded domestic law.


Concerning trade unions, she said women accounted for more than half of the trade union membership in Viet Nam.  Women’s interests were protected by both traditional trade unions and the Viet Nam Women’s Union.


In terms of public awareness campaigns to erase gender stereotypes, she said the Vietnamese Government had stepped up efforts in that regard in the last five years.  The Ministry of Education was incorporating gender equality themes into all grade school curricula and planned to do the same for master’s degree programmes in the social science field.  Plans included incorporating 60 graduate course credits for gender-related issues.


Concerning temporary special measures, another delegate said article 5 of the Law on Gender Equality incorporated such measures in line with article 4 of the Convention.  Article 11 of the Law on Gender Equality addressed gender parity in politics; article 12 addressed it in economic fields; article 13 in labour; and article 14 in education and training.  The Law on Gender Equality also guaranteed tax breaks and preferential financing for businesses that increased the number of women they employed.  The Law also guaranteed special tax credits for rural women business owners.


Further, the 2002 Law on the Election of National Assembly Deputies and the 2003 Law on the Election of the Peoples Council established quota systems for female delegates.   Viet Nam ranked among the countries with the greatest percentage of female parliamentarians.


To comply with article 4.1 of the Convention, Viet Nam had amended the Complaint and Denunciation Law in 2005.  That amendment gave citizens for the first time the right to sue in court for alleged violations of their citizen rights and legitimate benefits.  Since 2005, there had been 50,000 cases, more than half filed by women.  Of that half, approximately 30 per cent had been successfully resolved.  Women were becoming increasingly knowledgeable about the Complaint and Denunciation Law and Viet Nam’s legal system in general.  Free legal aid was also offered to women and men who could not afford to hire an attorney.


Another delegate noted that the role of women and gender equality had been integrated into social programmes and media had helped change societal attitudes.  Mass media played an active role in mobilizing and disseminating information, especially relating to conventions to which Viet Nam was a party.


On the promotion of human rights, from 2003 to date, he said the Government had conducted human rights campaigns and worked with other international organizations to disseminate information.  Further, the Government had organized a workshop for the northwest mountainous region and, in February, it would hold another one in the Mekong Delta.


On the possibility of Viet Nam’s participation in the additional Optional Protocol to the Convention, he said Viet Nam fully agreed with its goals, particularly its emphasis on fighting systematic violations of the rights of women.  While agreeing with those goals, Viet Nam had reservations relating to sovereignty and would take the Protocol under careful consideration within its overall structure, as the country would need to amend domestic laws.  The Government had signed several human rights protocols, including one on the rights of children, and would participate in the Protocol at an appropriate time, as it had no objections to its content.


Another delegate noted that the National Assembly would adopt national reports, according to a law passed last year.  NCFAW had planned to submit the next report to the National Assembly.


On sharing housework with husbands, the delegate cited a study by the Viet Nam Institute of Social Science that noted husbands were participating more in household work.  The report also showed that, when husbands did more housework, couples lived together longer.  The Government and the National Committee on Women, Children and Family were developing a vision for the Vietnamese family to share household work among all family members.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


ZOU XIAOQIAO, expert from China, said the report did not provide detailed material on the form of family violence or policies adopted to eliminate it.  She hoped that in the next report that information would be included.  According to the Public Security Bureau, she noticed that one person had died every 3 days as a result of family violence.  The report noted also that, because of Viet Nam’s patriarchical society, family violence had been regarded as a domestic affair, often provoked by drinking, which she considered a superficial phenomenon.  What preventive work was the Government doing to punish perpetrators of family violence?  What remedies existed, such as shelters or rehabilitation centres?  Additionally, as Viet Nam would adopt a law on family violence, she wondered whether the Government had formed relevant measures.


FERDOUS ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, expressed concern about the trafficking of women, noting that many women in rural areas had been trafficked by transnational match makers.  Victims were mostly under-aged, under educated, poor and uninformed about their situation.  There was a gap in information about the country, marriage and false hopes for a better life.  HIV/AIDS and abortion were related to that.   Viet Nam lacked responsible agencies to address that problem.  How would the law on marriage and family take those issues into account?


On the gap between laws and law enforcement, particularly relating to transnational organized crime, she asked how many cases had been adjudicated.  How many had been prosecuted?  How many cases of trafficking to all countries had occurred each year?


SAISUREE CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, while praising Viet Nam’s self analysis and the development of measures related to anti-trafficking and exploitation of women in prostitution, noted that enforcement of laws was not effective.


Would the anti-trafficking law include an article on heavier penalties for police if they became or conspired with perpetrators?  She recommended such an article be included.  On the active role of the Women’s Union, was it possible for the Government to support the Union’s work with leaders at the local and community levels to identify problems, develop preventive programmes and provide knowledge on rights?


On Viet Nam’s agreements with other countries on trafficking against women and children, she noticed that three of the seven agreements had been signed with China.  However, there was information that many Vietnamese women were sent to Taiwan through brokers.  What would Viet Nam do about that?  How would the Government ensure the rights of children born to trafficked women outside the country?


TIZIANA MAIOLO, expert from Italy, said she had the impression that trafficking of women had developed in an alarming way, with many forced into Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic.  In 2003, Viet Nam had adopted measures to sanction officials involved with prostitution; however they were administrative, rather than criminal sanctions.  Was current legislation effective?  Would it be changed?  Had the Government considered enforcing existing laws?


Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked for more information on measures to protect women and punish perpetrators.  On trafficking, victims and their children had citizenship problems.  How was the Government handling that issue?


On prostitution, she wondered about girls aged 15 who could be put in rehabilitation administrative centres, with no possibility to complain about their placement in them.  After the adoption of the new law on gender equality, was it possible to encourage changes in those centres to bring them in line with international standards?


Country Response


On violence in the family, the Vietnamese delegate said the problem was complicated.   Viet Nam believed it was better to prevent it and was drafting a law to prevent and combat violence in the family.  The Government had conducted several studies on that issue, in 13 provinces, and had classified violence in the family into four categories:  physical, mental, economic and sexual.  Sexual violence was a problem related to Vietnamese culture and many were hesitant to discuss it.


The Law to Combat and Prevent Violence in the Family was a new law put to the National Assembly in December 2005, the delegate said.  It had been revised since that time and was due to be resubmitted at year-end.  Violence resulting from alcohol was a problem, but male chauvinism in society was a deeper cause of violence.


Another delegate added that trafficking in women had increased, particularly through false marriages and tourism.  As of December 2005, 4,527 cases of trafficking in women and children had been reported, some 2,000 of which related to foreign countries.  The Government had developed measures, including decisions 130 and 112, on the prevention of trafficking of women and children.


Improvement of legal documents related to trafficking of women and children was necessary, she said.   Viet Nam was drafting a Prime Ministerial decision on those trafficked abroad and developing regulations for those activities for interdisciplinary action.   Viet Nam would apply United Nations definitions of human rights and dignity in identifying victims, and would provide vocational training for those returning to their former communities. 


On measures developed in recent years, she said Viet Nam had conducted training courses on combating trafficking at local levels, provided assistance for victim rehabilitation and given instructions to localities to develop statistics on victims.  Moreover, the country had done all that with international organizations and had signed memorandums of understanding with agencies, including the Mekong Region memorandums of understanding in 2005.  It was also working with Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Cambodia and Thailand to boost legal provisions on combating trafficking in women and children.


Another delegate noted that, in recent years, the Government had applied strict measures dealing with trafficking and there were stronger measures concerning organized crime in that regard.  Many perpetrators had been sentenced to 10-20 years in prison.  From 2006, Viet Nam had applied new criteria that would not give amnesty to those charged with trafficking in women and children.


Viet Nam had 14 agreements on trafficking with 14 countries, he continued.  Outcomes had been modest, particularly because Viet Nam was developing its market economy, which had provided opportunities for criminals.  Additionally, due to differences in the domestic laws of various countries, criminals had taken advantage of legal gaps.  Many countries did not have legal provisions for trafficked women and children.  Trafficking had been hard to prevent in part because victims did not always want to cooperate with authorities.


Another delegate noted that the care and protection of women’s rights and the facilitation of the Women’s Union’s activities had been a consistent policy of Government.  In 2003, the Government had institutionalized the Women’s Union as the core organization to participate in the building of local communities.  Its role was defined in the Constitution and the organization would help in socio-economic development of local communities.  Grass-roots unions could also provide social criticism to laws and development plans.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, asked whether there was a special clause in the anti-trafficking law for heavier penalties for officials involved in trafficking.  If yes, where was it contained?  If not, was there a possibility to include it?  On the problem of trafficked children returning to Viet Nam without citizenship, what was being done?


Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, on the new law on gender and equality, wondered how it handled implementation of international conventions.  Were they directly applicable?  Had the Convention been translated into languages of national minorities?


Country Response


A Vietnamese delegate noted that the 2006 Law stipulated that the National Assembly and President would decide on the implications of legal provisions.   Viet Nam was trying to harmonize its domestic law with international legal provisions.


Further, she said the Criminal Code had outlined separate punishments for officials committing crimes in trafficking, noting that article 119 stipulated that perpetrators could be imprisoned for up to 20 years for prostitution.  It did not, however, specify punishments for perpetrators who were officials.  If public servants had committed legal violations, they would be punished by other provisions relating to their posts. 


Another delegate addressed the question of translation of the Convention, noting that Viet Nam had 54 ethnic groups.  The second-largest group had one million people.  With such diversity, Viet Nam did not have the ability to translate documents into each ethnic language.  Many ethnic minorities did not have their own letters and written forms of culture and as such, it was difficult for the Government to translate.  It was necessary to use the Vietnamese language because many minorities did not have terms in their local languages.


Viet Nam was trying to preserve minority languages on one hand, and use the Viet language for communication and study on the other, she continued.  The country would promote English, among other languages, in classrooms, which was why ethnic minorities did not attach much importance to translation into their own languages.  To do that work, Viet Nam would need vast translating resources, which would be extremely difficult and unnecessary.


Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Articles 7 and 8


Ms. XIAOQIAO, expert from China, asked about future measures to achieve the objectives of the strategic action plan for the advancement of women.  Were there plans to use a quota system for Government posts, such as the post of minister or division director, and for the financial and education sectors?


Ms. ARA BEGUM, expert from Bangladesh, pointed to the Committee’s general recommendation number 25 on adopting temporary special measures to ensure that a greater percentage of women filled political and public-sector posts.  The percentage of women in political posts at the local level remained low.  What plans did Viet Nam have to ensure that gender quotas were imposed and filled?


MERIEM BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, praised the delegation for Viet Nam’s extraordinary progress in the advancement of women and in promoting women to posts in the high court and provincial governments.  She urged Viet Nam’s Government to continue moving forward, with particular focus on the advancement of minority women.


Country Response


A delegate said a greater percentage of women filled higher political posts than lower posts because local villages traditionally elected their village elders -– who were men –- to public office.  The reverse was usually true in most countries.   Viet Nam would try to slowly increase the number of women in local elected bodies.  However, changing local customs would take time.


Viet Nam was a transition economy and could not immediately change the retirement age in all sectors, which was 55 for women and 60 for men.  At present, most female workers wanted to maintain the current system.  However, the Government planned to make the retirement age the same for women and men in certain economic sectors and in key Government posts, particularly for new workers.

Concerning strategies to implement the national action plan for the advancement of women, another delegate said the Government was currently reviewing key goals for the 2005-2010 period.  The strategy would focus on improving female leadership, mainstreaming women’s issues into human resource departments, improving women’s public administration skills and increasing job training for women.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. GASPARD, expert from France, asked about the willingness to increase the number of women in decision-making.  What were the means to achieve objectives?


On article 4.1 of the Convention, which allowed for the use of quotas, she was concerned that so few women had been elected at local levels, especially considering that a large part of Viet Nam’s population lived in rural areas.  Countries that had used quotas had increased women’s participation at local levels and life had improved, especially in their access to water and land.  She strongly encouraged the country to create binding measures.


Country Response


The Vietnamese delegate said the problem centred on which tools to use.  As Viet Nam was at a lower level of development, it lacked financial resources to train women.  Training programmes had been proposed to the Government and approval had been given to establish an Institute of Women’s Affairs, which would encourage better participation in all activities.  In the National Strategy, quotas had been set for female participants in Government training programmes.


Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Cluster 3


Ms. AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, focused on the adoption of the Plan of Action on Education for 2003-2015, wondering why there were fewer girls than boys in the day-care centres.  There had been a drop from 2001 to the present.  Secondly, she was concerned that such a programme, which had major strategies, had not managed to create a substantial increase in enrolment.  She would have thought a plan of that scope would have incorporated a greater number of pupils in classrooms.


On enrolment in rural areas, Viet Nam should be able to comply with the Convention.  Did the Government have information on enrolment?  If not, she asked that it be included in the next report.


On types of education, to what degree were women and girls becoming involved in those areas of education typically perceived as male dominated?  On adult women enrolment, she asked whether there were programmes to incorporate adults in alternative forms of education.


Ms. CHUTIKUL, expert from Thailand, on article 10, said the “education for all” slogan had often become jargon.  She hoped Viet Nam would consider that idea seriously.  Concerning ethnic and poor groups, the country should find innovative ways to solve problems dealing with the quality of education.  The report mentioned scholarships could be won.  The use of mobile teams, long-distance learning and informal education programmes could be contextualized to suit Viet Nam’s situation.


On human rights education, including child rights and rights of women, she said that should be embraced to fit the age group and according to levels of development.  That would help change attitudes on gender equality and the eradication of stereotyping.  What happened at home shaped the minds of learners.  Social decision processes through parents and teachers were important and should be gender sensitive.  What was being done on those fronts?  Did those topics appear in the National Plan on Education?


Ms. TAVARES DA SILVA, expert from Portugal, acknowledging efforts to apply the 2002 Marriage Law to ethnic minorities, asked whether an evaluation of results of that law had been conducted.  While there had been positive developments, she said that 19 per cent of ethnic minority girls had not been to school and accounted for 70 per cent of school drop outs.


On health issues, ethnic minority women had higher rates of maternal mortality than the general population.  On the revised Land Law, she understood it was not always applied, particularly because women had not been informed about their rights.  Women in ethnic minority groups were potential victims of trafficking and she asked whether their rights were really safeguarded.


On legislation issues, she said the National Commission on Ethnic Minorities and Mountainous Affairs had prepared a draft law on nationalities.  Had it been adopted?  Did the Law on Gender Equality and the National Strategy for the Advancement of Women address the issues of women in ethnic communities?


While commending Viet Nam’s efforts in the field of employment and enacting the Labour Code, PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, pointed out that the status of women in the labour market remained a challenge.  She asked whether the Government had researched women in the informal economic sector and whether there were efforts to integrate them into the formal sector.  What were the impacts of globalization on their economic status?  The situation remained precarious, as women suffered from poor working conditions, and a lack of job and social security.  What was the Ministry of Labour doing to better implement legislation?


It had been heard from independent sources that factories owned by a certain country had refused to comply with Vietnamese laws, she said.  What was the role of the labour inspectorate?  Did the Law on Gender Equality overlap with the Labour Code?


The report stated that Viet Nam had exported 158,000 workers.  To which countries had they gone and what mechanisms were in place to protect women?  Concerning the decree on salary providing for equal pay for equal work, did it relate to equal value?  How were cases of wage discrimination adjudicated?  On social benefits, how were women’s rights ensured?  She added that the report had been silent on sexual harassment in the work place and wondered whether there was a provision to deal with it.


ANAMAH TAN, expert from Singapore, noted contradicting statistics on Viet Nam’s abortion rate.  Which group had the highest abortion rate and what specific measures targeted that group?  How many girls and women died annually because of abortion?  Was abortion considered a contraceptive?  If so, what steps were being taken to correct that misconception?


She asked whether the increase in drug addiction was due to ineffectual HIV/AIDS education campaigns?  Was the mother-to-child HIV transmission rate increasing or decreasing?  Were HIV/AIDS tests readily available in Viet Nam, particularly in remote, mountainous areas?  Was HIV/AIDS education taught in schools?  Was sex education?  How many women and girls had sexually transmitted diseases?  How many sought treatment as compared to men?


Country Response


Regarding vocational training for women in rural areas, a delegate said the Government had set up vocational training centres to help former farmers develop skills for industrial-sector jobs.


Concerning labour safety and foreign enterprises violating the Vietnamese Labour Code, she said articles 227 and 228 of the Labour Code included provisions on labour safety and child labour.  Foreign enterprises were required to comply with the Labour Code.  Administrative fines were imposed on companies that violated labour safety codes.  Chapter 10 of the Labour Code included provisions on female labour.  Legislators would need to revise the Labour Code in line with the Law on Gender Equality.


In terms of guest workers sent abroad, she said Vietnamese workers were present in more than 40 countries.  The new Guest Worker Law had been approved by the National Assembly and would go into effect in July. 


Concerning pay scales, she said Viet Nam guaranteed the right to equal pay for men and women.  However, men earned on average 40 per cent more than women.  Women tended to have lower paying jobs and had greater domestic responsibilities.  The Law on Gender Equality aimed to achieve gender pay parity.


Turning to the issue of land rights and inheritances of ethnic minorities, another delegate said the country’s 53 ethnic minorities had their own customs, which often varied widely from one group to another.  Dowries were not calculated or documented, making it difficult to assess statistics on inheritance in minority communities.  Ethnic minority students received scholarships to boarding schools, free tuition in universities and colleges and other preferential treatment.  The Government’s goal was to ensure that all ethnic minority communities had their own doctors and teachers.


Vietnamese officials were in the process of drafting a law on the rights of ethnic minorities, the delegate said.  It was very difficult to obtain a consensus on the law from all the country’s ethnic minorities.  Moreover, there had been a lot of turnover in the post of Chairperson of the committee charged with drafting the law.  Due to those factors the National Assembly’s timeline for drafting the law would not be met.


Concerning the abortion rate, she said it was decreasing among middle-aged women but increasing among girls and young women.  The increase was due to youth’s embrace of outside culture and sexual liberation.  Local and national Vietnamese authorities were working to introduce sex education in schools and had launched mass media campaigns to set up community reproductive health centres.


In terms of the gender education gap, another delegate said the Ministry of Education did not encourage girls to pursue certain professions over others.  Female students tended to pursue degrees in primary and secondary education, medicine and health sciences; however they were increasingly pursuing degrees in the natural sciences and technology.  In the 2001-2002 period, women accounted for 44.3 per cent of students enrolled in science and technology programmes, a 5 per cent increase over the 1998-1999 period.  Women accounted for 48 per cent of students enrolled in medical science programmes.


Regarding mother-to-child HIV transmission, she said the transmission rate was increasing, but the total number of new HIV/AIDS infections in Viet Nam was decreasing.  Annually, 2,000 of the 6,000 HIV-positive pregnant women in Viet Nam transmitted the disease to their newborn babies.


The rate of female students choosing international studies was high, another delegate said.  The Institute for International Relations in Hanoi had experienced a higher rate of female students than male, and that trend also had been seen in other universities, colleges and law schools.


On HIV/AIDS, Viet Nam was proud to announce it had met seven of the eight Millennium Development Goals.  The Goal pertaining to HIV/AIDS, however, had been a tough task.  Concerning the shrinking rate of female children in kindergarten and day care centres, he admitted it had been a problem, in part because of parental preference of boys to girls.  A recent report showed an imbalance in the ratio of newborn boys and girls.  According to some experts, however, that imbalance had improved and the ratio of boys to girls in schools would equalize.


Human rights education had been introduced in schools from the elementary to the high school level and had taken the shape of civic education, he said.  Documents had been written in Vietnamese, as the Government could not translate into the 53 minority dialects.  For many ethnic minorities, the Government was trying to help them develop their own scripts.


In the promotion regime of civil servants, the Government had conducted activities to promote ethnic public servants, he said.  It was compulsory for all civil servants to know one foreign language; however, if a civil servant had mastered one ethnic language, he or she did not have to pass the foreign language test for promotion.


Experts’ Questions and Comments


Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, discussing article 14, asked for precise measures that had been developed for women to enjoy the right to social benefits.  Turning to the pilot project in certain localities, she wondered whether an evaluation had been conducted and, if so, what was the outcome?  Had it been extended to other localities?  Were anti-poverty programmes being developed that encompassed employment schemes?  On financial services, were efforts being made to access the most disadvantaged women?  Were lending organizations integrating credit with services and training?


On the environment, as it pertained to poverty alleviation, to what extent was the Government helping rural women access science, technology and economics to better participate in environmental decisions?  She also asked what strategies existed to increase the participation of rural women in the design of policies for natural resource management and environmental protection.


Ms. GUMEDE SHELTON, expert from South Africa, reviewing article 14, asked about the elimination of discrimination on issues of salary and payment.  Could the panel clarify whether salary discrepancies had increased or decreased since 2002, as the data had been confusing?


On ethnic minority women’s access to information, she commended the panel’s overview on work being carried out with youth.  She reiterated her question on how Viet Nam ensured that ethnic minority women, particularly older women, were represented and heard.  She also asked about statistics on the number of female farmers.  How many were farm workers and farm owners?  Had those numbers increased or decreased?


On access to health care, she asked how the Government could reconcile the issue of rural communities having a high number of hospitals, high access to water, and yet having high rates of maternal mortality and unattended health problems among ethnic minority women.  How had those statistics been produced?  Was other information available?


On land use certificates, she asked whether all certificates must be changed to reflect the names of both the male and female.


Country Response


On social instruments, a delegate responded that, in 2006, the National Assembly had passed a law on social instruments with a chapter on voluntary social instruments covering families working in non-official sectors.  Some 30 million people would participate in that campaign and the country needed to work out documents to implement that law.


On payment issues, a woman’s income was 14 per cent lower than a man’s, she said.  The rate of women participating in high-income areas was lower than men.  Government documents did not distinguish whether a man or a woman occupied positions of the same level and skill.


On the issue of female agricultural workers and farmers, she noted that, among the country’s 24 million workers, there were more than 12 million women.  She noted that 30.61 per cent of farm owners were female and that 31.88 per cent of enterprise proprietors were female.  This year, Viet Nam had adopted for the first time a national programme on labour safety and had organized a national week on labour safety in the southern part of the country.


On land use certificates, another delegate said land was a joint asset of husband and wife, including residential and cultivated land.  When the amended law came into effect, the certificate would hold the names of both.  For those already issued, holders could approach local authorities to alter it, as the re-issuance of all certificates would pose a financial burden to the system.  It was important to educate people about the significance of the certificates and how to use them in economic activities.


On the environment, environmental protection was among the Government’s top three priorities in its socio-economic development plans from 2006-2010, the delegates said.  There was a need to enhance women’s role in that process.  The Women’s Union had conducted campaigns for clean water and the Ministry for Agriculture had started a programme on forest protection.  Future projects would include the use of clean electricity to improve life in rural areas.


Concerning middle-aged women in rural areas, she said their concerns had been incorporated into Viet Nam’s action plans.  The Government had asked them to coordinate activities with organizations such as elderly associations and the Women’s Union. 


Experts’ Questions and Comments -– Articles 15 and 16


Ms. TAN, expert from Singapore, asked about decree 32 on implementation of the Law on Marriage and Family in ethnic minority communities and its effect on eliminating backward marriage customs, particularly in rural areas.  What was being done to educate ethnic communities about the rights and obligations of men and women under the Law on Marriage and Family, including the right of all spouses to initiate divorce?


Ms. BELMIHOUB-ZERDANI, expert from Algeria, said the country report stated that, in the last three years, most people had registered marriages, but it also stated that, in remote areas, marriages were often not registered due to poor transport access to Government registration offices.  She suggested that Viet Nam assign local mayor’s offices or itinerant bodies to register marriages in remote areas.


Ms. MAIOLO, expert from Italy, said that, although women now had the right to be registered on land use certificates, certificates were only altered to include a woman’s name upon her request.  Many women were not aware of their land and other rights.  Some were reportedly beaten by police when trying to exercise those rights.  Could the delegation elaborate on this?


Country Response


Concerning marriage customs, a delegate said the legal marriage age was 18 for women and 20 for men.  That applied to ethnic communities as well.  The Criminal Code applied to children in ethnic communities who married before reaching the legal marriage age.


She said the delegation would duly take note of the experts’ suggestions concerning implementing the Law on Marriage and Family and on increasing the marriage registration rate.  The Ministry of Justice had conducted registration drive efforts and campaigns to implement the Law.  Ethnic youth could register their marriages at People’s Council offices.  Legal aid workers could also go to the homes of youth in remote to help them fill out marriage certificates. 


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For information media • not an official record