On the bill on gender equity
Under the 2006 legislative program, the Bill on Gender Equity will be submitted to the National Assembly at its next session in October. On this occasion, Vietnam Law & Legal Forum interviewed Brianna Harrison, UNAIDS Rights-Based Programme Officer.

What do you think about the situation of gender equity in Vietnam, and the necessity to promulgate the Law on Gender Equity?

Vietnam has a strong record of the promotion and participation of women in the formal sphere. Vietnam ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1982. And the right to gender equity is enshrined in Article 63 of the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, which includes the provision that: “Male and female citizens have equal rights in all fields - political, economic, cultural, social, and the family.” The National Strategy for the Advancement of Women 2001-2010 outlines priority gender equity goals for Vietnam, and Vietnam is on track for meeting the Millennium Development Goal relating to the promotion of gender equity.

The Vietnam Women’s Union is a good example of the important role that women can and should play in Vietnam today. It is one of the most active mass organizations in Vietnam and has been particularly active in promoting gender equity and addressing women’s issues.

The proposed Law on Gender Equity will serve a protective role by prohibiting discriminatory behaviors which undermine the equality of women in Vietnamese society. The proposed Law also promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women as a social and cultural value. In this way, the law can promote change in the underlying values and patterns of behaviors that create vulnerability to HIV infection in women. The provisions of the Bill that protect women’s right to work, their right to be free from discrimination in employment and access to health care, their right to participate in social activities and their right to own property address some of the underlying causes of why women are unable to protect themselves against HIV infection.

In your opinion what domains of gender equity should be governed by the Bill?

It is important for the Bill to address not only overt instances of discrimination against women, but also the social and economic factors that render women (and their children) vulnerable to HIV infection. Issues such as property ownership in marriage, equality of opportunity in the workforce, support for women’s role as mothers and carers, as well as their right to participation in society are all important issues which can and should be dealt with by the Bill. The State’s commitment to set minimum targets for participation by women in policy and legal decision-making processes is an important move towards empowering women, building their role in society and ensuring that they have a voice in decisions that affect women.

There is an opinion that it is necessary to set up a Ministry of Gender Equity in Vietnam. What do you think?

It is important that the Bill on Gender Equity is fully implemented once it is passed. This will require a multi-ministerial and multi-sectoral response, as reflected in the Bill. This should be the priority in implementation, rather than setting up a separate ministry.

The State is accountable to the people for the proper coordination of these implementation activities and to ensure that various agencies, organizations, families and individuals with responsibilities under the Bill fulfill their responsibilities. UNAIDS would like to see the activities and capacity of existing institutions such as the National Committee for the Advancement of Women and the Vietnam Women’s Union strengthened and given further support by the government.

Do you have any suggestions on how to further promote gender equity in Vietnam and to ensure the feasibility of the Bill?

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