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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Vietnamese legislation on equality for women in marriage and family relations

Updated: 10:47’ - 01/04/2011

MA Nguyen Thi Thanh Hai
Human Right Research Center
Ho Chi Minh National Political Institute


With Vietnam being a member of  8 basic international conven tions on human rights, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Vietnamese Party and State have always attached importance to boosting the equal position for women, which has been an important and fundamental objective in various socio-economic development strategies and programs.

Immediately after the national independence was regained, the country’s first Constitution of 1946 acknowledged the equality between men and women in all aspects. Such principle has been further supplemented and developed in subsequent Constitutions. Article 63 of the 1992 Constitution states: “Male and female citizens have equal rights in all fields- political, economic, cultural, social and the family.”

For the purpose of building a regime of progressive and equal marriage and family, the system of Vietnamese laws on this issue is based on the principle that “husbands and wives are equal to each other, having the equal rights and obligations in all aspects in their families.” The Civil Code, the Penal Code and particularly the 2000 Marriage and Family Law have set forth adequate provisions on the equality between men and women in general as well as between husbands and wives in their marriage and family relations in particular, which are compatible with international laws thereon. Thereby, men and women, when reaching the prescribed ages (18 for women and 20 for men), shall have the right to freedom of marriage according to the one husband- one wife regime, the right to divorce, the right to have respect for their honor, dignity and prestige, the rights to personal equality...

One of the important novelties of the 2000 Marriage and Family Law is that it has concretized the provisions on the women’s rights to equality in property relationships involving common property, personal property and inheritance property. The complicated and sensitive matters of discrimination against women in property ownership have been touched upon and specified in this new law. In order to create legal bases for property division for women, particularly after their divorces, Clause 2, Article 27 of the 2000 Marriage and Family Law provides clearly: “For the properties under the common ownership of the husband and the wife, of which their ownership must be registered as prescribed by law, their ownership certificates must be inscribed with the names of both the husband and the wife.” The division of big property such as land, houses, which was unequal in the past as such property had been usually owned by the husband, has been specified in Articles 97 and 98 of the Marriage and Family Law. Therefore, the women’s interests have been better protected by Vietnamese law.

Based on the principle of gender equality, the Vietnamese laws have acknowledged that women are totally equal to men in performing the rights and obligations to care for, nurture, protect and educate their children, and represent them at law. This has been specified in Articles 34, 36, 37, 39, 45 and 46 of the Marriage and Family Law as well as in many articles of other laws. In recent years, thanks to the population and family planning policies, Vietnamese women have taken initiative in deciding on the number and time of their child births, thus having opportunities to improve their health, to further their study and advance their careers.

Violence against women has become a global issue. It is an old issue but a new content in the international laws on human rights in several recent decades. The women’s right to equality in the marriage and family relations can only be ensured when the domestic violence is abolished. In that spirit, the Vietnamese laws strictly prohibit all acts of maltreating, abusing, infringing upon the honor and dignity of, women. Formerly, under the influence of feudal ideologies, domestic violence in Vietnam was considered an internal affair, and rarely condemned by public opinion. According to the results of a research conducted by a group of Vietnamese sociologists, “the domestic violence occurs in all regions, rural and urban as well, and in families of all income levels” (See Vietnam gender-based violence, Study commissioned by the World Bank, 1999).

The legal provisions concerning the protection of the lives, health and dignity of citizens in general and women in particular have been concretized in a number of articles of the Civil Code (Articles 32, 33, 36), the Penal Code (all the crimes defined in Chapter XII can be applied to handle acts of domestic violence), the Marriage and Family Law (Article 4, 21, 34, 35, 38,...) and many other legal documents. However, these legal documents have just stopped short at general provisions, having no specific provisions directly on acts of domestic violence. Therefore, it is extremely necessary for the State to promulgate legal documents on elimination of the domestic violence.

In recent years, in addition to the achievements in the economic and social domains, marked progresses have been made in ensuring the women’s rights to equality in the society in general and the family in particular. The third and fourth national reports on the implementation of the Convention on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women acknowledged: “The principle on equality between men and women, without discrimination against women in marriage and family relations continues to be upheld and well observed in Vietnam.”

This is attributed mainly to the legal system in general and the legislation on the women’s equality in the marriage and family relations in particular, which have been increasingly improved. In addition, the system of the State bodies functioning to enforce laws has been renovated and further consolidated. Particularly, with the support of various domestic and foreign agencies, the work of information, communication and education on gender equality has been carried out widely and efficiently.

However, due to the heavy influence of traditional customs and practices as well as the lack of specificity in the legal system and law enforcement, the discrimination against women, especially in families, remains a fairly common occurrence. Hence, raising the people’s awareness of gender equality and perfecting policies and laws thereon seem to be the important and necessary solutions.-

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