Women's Rights in Vietnam
People in Need have organized a lecture and debate about Women's Rights in Vietnam after a recent event that sent a shockwave across the nation. A man, who sexually assaulted a woman in an elevator, was punished with only a $10 fine. The case provoked deeper debate about the current standing of women in Vietnamese society. As a response, thousands of people actively participated in the surprisingly successful "If not NOW Then WHEN?" movement.
As part of our duty to defend human rights, we have reacted in accordance to the movement, and on June 6th 2019 hosted three women who are involved in different lines of work for Vietnam at Prague's Prostor 39. After their talks, they took the time to answer questions and concerns from the audience.
Marta Lopatkova works at the institute of East Asian studies at Charles University, where she teaches at the Vietnamese studies programme. She has been studying Vietnamese society, culture and literature with a focus on gender issues for several years. During her lecture, she discussed the traditional roles women had in the past, including a quote said by the first Chinese philosopher Confucius:
‘‘One hundred women are not worth a single testicle."
Marta Lopatkova then outlined how far women have progressed in the 2500 years since then. The Vietnamese Women's Union is an influential organization which facilitates educational and business opportunities to help Vietnamese women gain employment and independence.
As part of her master’s program, Katerina Pavelova spent a summer in Vietnam where she studied a small number of women who marry foreigners and leave the country. This practice has a long tradition, especially becoming more common during the 1990's. Currently, the prospective husband typically takes several trips to the country so the couple can get to know each other. Recently, most of the foreign men Vietnamese women marry come from South Korea.
"Vietnamese women want better lives too, and the ability to move to other countries with better job opportunities is a popular way of doing this. Also, the image of South Korean men is being idealized in Vietnam."
Mia Nguyen has been living in Prague since 1991, and she is working as a member of VanLang, an organization focused on human rights in Vietnam. During our meeting, she spoke about her personal life during the 1980s, when she was growing up in Vietnam.
“We girls were brought up to walk quietly, talk quietly and to take others into consideration – which is actually not such bad advice,” said Mai Nguyen quietly.
„But things are different now, traditional society has changed, and women are speaking up.”
After the talk, there was time for a debate, which grew into a spirited and engaging discussion. One thing is clear - an interest in women's rights and women’s rights in Vietnam brought many people together from both the Czech and Vietnamese communities. Lectures and debates of the current situation in Vietnam are an essential part of the work established by People in Need.