Key Achievements of the CEDAW SEAP Phase II Programme in Viet-Nam
Through the CEDAW SEAP programme, more than 2000 government officers, parliamentarians, law and policy makers, gender experts and civil society representatives in Viet Nam enhanced their understanding on CEDAW and their capacity to apply CEDAW principles in practice. The programme supported opportunities to address issues concerning women’s rights ranging from rights to public and political life, employment, marriage to access to justice through legal reforms as well as international and regional human rights mechanisms.
- Ministry of Labour Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) for CEDAW implementation in general and inter-ministerial coordination
- Ministry of Justice for gender responsive legal reforms and enhancing women’s access to justice
- Parliamentary Committee on Social Affairs (PCSA) for raising awareness on CEDAW among elected bodies and to conduct gender assessment of the laws reviewed by the National Assembly
- Networks of civil society organizations (CSOs) working on gender equality such as the Gender and Community Development Network and Domestic Violence Prevention Network to advocate for better CEDAW implementation in Viet Nam
Gender responsive legal reforms
Over the past five years, Viet Nam has reformed its legal frameworks to a great extent, including by adopting a new Constitution in 2013. The CEDAW SEAP programme contributed to increase knowledge on CEDAW and other human rights treaties as well as skills to harmonize national legislations with those treaties through trainings, workshops and policy dialogues for the Ministry of Justice, PCSA, MOLISA, CSOs and Viet Nam Women’s Union that played crucial roles in the legal reforms. At least 50% of the direct beneficiaries of the interventions stated that they had increased their understanding of CEDAW and applied CEDAW principles in the law revision process.
The programme also contributed to form discussions around various women’s rights issues including women and men’s different retirement age during the Labour Code amendment; provision of parental leaves during the Law on Social Insurance amendment; migrant workers’ residency and access to social services during the Law on Civil Status amendment; sex marriage, equality between husband and wife, monetary value of housework during the Law on Marriage and Family amendment; and women’s property and inheritance rights during the Civil Code amendment. Visible progress has been seen in gender mainstreaming and inclusion of women’s rights in the legislative and oversight processes, however crucial gaps still remain such as the unequal retirement age for women and men.
Access to justice for violence against women survivors
Some significant researches were developed to better understand women’s experience navigating through the justice chain, including the desk review of village code and customary laws from CEDAW and human rights perspectives as complimentary inputs for later studies which looked at the attrition of sexual violence cases, situation of women in the criminal justice system and a case study on domestic violence survivors’ access to justice within the plural legal system.
The Ministry of Justice conducted a thorough desk review on the legal framework to address VAW offences and formulated recommendations to revise the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, while increasing the capacity of the legal drafting team to better understand international standards and best practices to address VAW under the criminal justice system. As a result, the amended Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code expanded definition of rape, explicitly criminalized acid attacks and repeated physical and psychological violence against a family member, and aligned provisions on human trafficking with international standards.
Two tailored training modules were developed to equip justice providers with necessary knowledge and skills to address cases of sexual violence and domestic violence, under the cooperation between UN Women and the Judicial Academy, a national training institution for prospective judges, prosecutors and lawyers under the management of the Ministry of Justice. Once the revised training curriculum will be in place more than 2,000 lawyers, prosecutors and judges annually will graduate from the Academy with improved skills to address VAW cases in accordance with best international practices apart from the core trained groups of 100 participants of the pilot trainings.
CEDAW reporting mechanism
The most recent periodic review by the CEDAW Committee took place in July 2015, following the submission of the combined seventh and eight State party report in January 2013. CEDAW SEAP programme supported MOLISA to enhance knowledge and understanding of CEDAW among inter-ministerial government officers from central to provincial levels, including through the followings:
- A mock CEDAW session with a CEDAW Committee member to prepare the government delegation to meaningfully engage in the constructive dialogue with the CEDAW Committee, and to better understand State obligations under the substantive articles of CEDAW;
- Dissemination of the CEDAW Concluding Observations to central and provincial government officers; and
- Development of the Plan of Action to translate the CEDAW recommendations into concrete actions with specific timeframe and responsibilities for the very first time. A multi-stakeholder taskforce was established under the leadership of MOLISA and received training by a CEDAW Committee member.
A shadow report to the CEDAW Committee was jointly drafted by 21 CSOs, in contrast with the shadow report submitted in 2007 developed by only seven NGOs who each wrote separate sections. The CEDAW SEAP programme supported the CSO networks to improve their representation of the most excluded groups of women such as ethnic minority women, women in rural areas, LBTI women and women living with disability or HIV, and to encourage the younger generation to take part in policy advocacy.
For the first time, young professional women were able to participate the CEDAW Session and raised sharp countered arguments with the government delegation. It was also a new experience for the informal network of women living with HIV to take part in CEDAW reporting.
The coordination mechanism utilized to develop the shadow report has been reformed and strengthened to further carry on CEDAW-based advocacy, including by developing a monitoring framework to assess and advocate for the implementation of the CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations.
Key Achievements per Outcome (CEDAW Prodoc Outcomes)
Outcome 1: Increased knowledge and skills to apply CEDAW compliance in the development and monitoring of new and revised legislative frameworks.
- Institutional capacity built for law makers, legal officers, drafting team members who mainly come from the Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly Committees, and line ministries.
- A Gender Impact Assessment Tool was developed to support gender mainstreaming in legislation development for MOJ. The Tool was used by MOJ and PCSA to review laws such as the Labour Code and Law on Grassroots Conciliation.
- By the end of 2015, PCSA developed a Guidebook to apply CEDAW in law development and legal reforms, based on lessons learned from CEDAW trainings provided for MPs as well as reviewing laws from gender perspective. The guidebook is being used to train women candidates to the People’s Council and National Assembly, and will be adopted by the National Assembly Training Centre to provide trainings for newly elected MPs and deputies to the People’s Council.
- Gender assessment and dialogues were organized to identify gaps in laws, and recommendations were developed based on international normative standards and best practices on CEDAW and other human rights instruments during legal reforms. As a result, following changes were made:
- Labour Code (2012) – prolonged maternity leave from 4 to 6 months
- Law on Marriage and Family (2014) – removed prohibition on same sex marriage, housework was recognized as income-generating labour for settlement of property upon divorce
- Social Insurance Law (2014) – introduced paternity leave
- Law on State Budget (2015) – principle of gender equality integrated in budget management and estimations
- Law on Elections (2015) – introduced a gender quota for female candidates to the National Assembly election at a minimum of 35%
- Law on Legal Normative Documents (2015) – mandated gender mainstreaming in law making
- Civil Code (2015) – enabled gender re-assignment
- Penal Code (2015) – expanded definition of rape, explicitly criminalized acid attacks and repeated physical and psychological violence against a family member, aligned provisions on human trafficking with international standards
- Criminal Procedure Code (2015) – removed mandatory requirement of conducting forensic examination on sexual violence victims
Outcome 2: Increased awareness among formal and informal justice system actors of CEDAW commitments.
- Two training modules to address sexual violence and domestic violence offences against women were developed by the National Judicial Training Institution and piloted in training workshops with 133 legal professionals (84 women and 49 men) including lecturers from the Judicial Academy, Hanoi Law University and other legal practitioners. The training used a newly developed casebook comprising of 100 relevant cases and video clips of role plays to enhance knowledges and skills to handle VAW cases.
- Desk review of village code and customary laws from CEDAW and human rights perspectives was conducted as complimentary inputs for later studies such as the study on policing and prosecution of sexual violence against women; Assessment of the Situation of Women in the Criminal Justice System in Viet Nam (in cooperation with UNODC); and a case study on domestic violence survivors’ access to justice within the plural legal system (in partnership with the Institute of Sociology, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics).
- A thorough desk review on the legal framework to address VAW offences was conducted and formulated recommendations to revise the Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code, while increasing the capacity of the legal drafting team to better understand international standards and best practices to address VAW under the criminal justice system through training workshops.
- Policy dialogues were organized among CSOs, legal practitioners, government officers and mass organizations to discuss VAW survivors’ access to justice. Joint UN-CSO policy briefs were developed to raise awareness on the gaps in the justice system to protect women’s rights during the occasion of 16 Days of Activism against Violence Against Women.
Outcome 3: Strengthened monitoring and accountability mechanisms for implementation of CEDAW commitments.
- Country specific guiding materials were developed by a CEDAW Committee member and provided at a mock CEDAW session and a training for developing the Plan of Action (POA) for CEDAW implementation. The guiding materials and trainings enhanced understandings on CEDAW principles, CEDAW reporting mechanism, State obligations under substantive CEDAW articles as well as their linkage with General Recommendations.
- Dissemination of the CEDAW Concluding Observations was immediately initiated by MOLISA and consultations for the POA development took place in northern, central and southern provinces of Viet Nam. Representatives from the civil society were invited to take part and deliver presentations on their view on CEDAW implementation in Viet Nam.
- An intern-ministerial taskforce which also includes a CSO representative was formed to develop a comprehensive action plan to implement CEDAW recommendations, mobilizing experts from different fields. It is Viet Nam’s first attempt to develop such action plan.
- The shadow report jointly drafted by 21 CSOs was used as an evidence base to advocate for divorce issues affecting women of different identities in Viet Nam. The CSO networks shared the shadow report with government stakeholders in at least four consultations.
- Young women’s participation in the CEDAW reporting mechanism greatly increased. They were successful in sharing the issue on dating violence by presenting results from their online survey. The CEDAW Committee’s Concluding Observations called for criminalization of all forms of violence against women including dating violence.