Gender equality is, first and foremost, a human right. Women are entitled to live in dignity and freedom from want and fear. Empowering women is also an indispensable tool for advancing development and reducing poverty.

Viet Nam has a strong legal framework in place to support gender equality and has also made good progress to improve education for girls. However, discrimination against women and girls continues to persist.

For example, deep-rooted cultural norms favouring boys often result in pre-natal sex selection. This is causing an increasingly imbalanced sex ratio at birth. In 2011, for every 100 girls born 111.9 boys were born. In some provinces, this skewed sex ratio at birth even exceeded 120. These norms and traditions place huge pressure on Vietnamese women to produce sons, which ultimately affects their status in society as well as their sexual and reproductive lives.

An imbalanced sex ratio at birth will affect Viet Nam’s population structure in the future. The potential consequences are serious. A scarcity of women can increase pressure on them to marry at a younger age and perhaps drop out of school to do so. There may be a rising demand for sex work, and trafficking networks may also expand.

Violence against women and girls is another area of concern. A 2010 national study, supported by the UN in Viet Nam, revealed that 34 percent of women who have been married had experienced some kind of physical violence perpetrated by their husband. Violence against women not only has severe consequences for the individual woman and her family. There are also economic costs. Recent research shows that women who experience violence earn about 35 percent less than those who do not. The overall productivity loss caused by domestic violence is estimated at 1.78 percent of Viet Nam’s GDP – a significant drain on the national economy.

UNFPA believes it is important to ensure that national laws and legislation to address gender inequality are also put into action. The victims of violence need to be supported with appropriate care, treatment and protection. It is equally important to persuade men and boys to accept their important role in preventing violence against women. Women alone cannot end domestic violence. It must be done in partnership and men have a critical role to play.

UNFPA’s Response
Within the framework of the Government of Viet Nam and UN One Plan for 2012-2016, UNFPA works at both the national and provincial level with different partners across many sectors to address gender-based violence and the imbalanced sex ratio at birth.

Together with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, UNFPA provides support for a national coordinated response to domestic violence, focusing on three areas:
  • Developing a national coordination mechanism that will help to strengthen coordination between different partners working to prevent domestic violence;
  • Strengthening monitoring and evaluation, including conducting another national survey on domestic violence; and
  • Developing a comprehensive minimum package of interventions to support those women affected by domestic violence. This package includes prevention as a first step, as well as care, treatment and protection.
We also support the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to generate evidence on gender-based violence and the imbalanced sex ratio at birth, and to use this evidence in advocacy and policy development, thereby helping to promote and implement the National Strategy and Programme of Action on Gender Equality.

At the provincial level we work in Hai Duong province in northern Viet Nam and Ben Tre province in the southern part of the country. Our work there focuses on analyzing the cost-effectiveness of different models to address domestic violence and the imbalanced sex ratio at birth, as well as the cost-effectiveness of a minimum package of interventions on these two issues. The aim is to develop effective and evidence-based models that can be applied nation-wide. 

Finally, we also work with the Women’s Union and Farmers’ Union – influential social organizations that are able to reach a large number of people. Given their strong outreach, we work with these two organizations to mobilize their support for nation-wide advocacy on combating and preventing gender-based violence and the discrimination of women and girls.