Speech of Ms. Astrid Bant, UNFPA Representative, at the Workshop "Justice for survivors of Sexual Violence"

7 December 2018

Mr. Pham Ngoc Tien, Director of Department for Gender Equality, Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs;

Ms. Nguyen Van Anh, Director of CSAGA;

Representatives of MOLISA and other line ministries;

Representatives of International Organizations, CSO, fellow UN colleagues and media;

A very good morning to you all;

On behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Viet Nam, I am very pleased to welcome you to this workshop. I would like to thank CSAGA for co-organizing this important workshop, and everyone joining us here today to raise our voices on this critical issue, as well as to promote access to justice for survivors of sexual violence. I also would like to thank KOICA for contributing funding to this event.

This workshop is among many activities organized towards the Viet Nam National Action Month on GBV and the global United Nations UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and girls, which is highlighting our support for survivors and advocates under the theme ‘Orange the World: #HearMeToo’.

With orange as the unifying colour of solidarity, the #HearMeToo hashtag is designed to send a clear message: violence against women and girls must end now, and we all have a role to play.

We need to do more to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Sexual violence against women and girls is a global pandemic, most of victims are women, and the risk is higher for adolescents and young people.

Although there has been little research conducted on the problem, available data shows that nearly one in four women worldwide experience sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime, and up to one-third of adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced.

In Viet Nam, a MOLISA and Action Aid survey in 2016, which was conducted in five cities and provinces found that 51 per cent of women admitted that they had experienced sexual harassment at least once.

The topic of sexual violence is often considered too sensitive to discuss in public because people feel that it might create negative consequences for the victims of sexual violence and they are often blamed for getting abused. In face of the probability that their story will not be believed or turned against them, women keep silent.

A  study in Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi in 2014 revealed that among interviewees who had experienced sexual harassment, only 1.9 per cent said that they would seek formal justice and of all bystanders who witnessed harassment of women in public spaces, 65 per cent said they would not take any action. So often people assume that sexual violence only occurs outside of family and is caused by strangers, while in fact this is not the case. Many women are unsafe in their own homes. They are raped or sexually coerced by their husband. Yet, victims are too afraid to speak out.

Viet Nam has started to recognize the need to prevent and respond to forms of sexual violence against women. The amended Labour Code (2012) contains a prohibition of sexual harassment in the workplace, and the Education Law (2009) contains honour and dignity and prohibits behaviours such as abuse, including physical abuse in educational institutions. The Youth Law has one sentence about protecting youths from sexual abuse as the responsibility of the State. However, enforcement of these provisions and monitoring efforts need to be improved.

Distinguished guests,

While we need to tackle the issue of sexual violence from multiple fronts, I would like to highlight some key recommendations:

First, the existing normative, legal and policy frameworks to address  sexual violence need to be strengthened to ensure that sexual violence cases are treated strictly, perpetrators are  punished, women and girls are safe and supported;

Second, we need to make sure the availability of essential supporting services for GBV survivors and perpetrators to provide timely and effective support. Justice service must be a key essential service. In addition, we need to improve capacity for service providers to ensure support services are rights-based, victim-centered, and gender-sensitive.

Third, the coordination between ministries, departments, agencies and NGOs on gender equality, and in particular, those in charge to address GBV including sexual violence is strengthened to ensure comprehensive and effective support for sexual violence survivors.

Forth, address changes in the perceptions and behaviours of policy makers and the public, especially men and boys about GBV to create an enabling environment for survivors to speak out and seek help;  

Last but not the least, create positive male role models to engage men and boys for ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women. Men’s crucial contributions to this momentum include examining their power and behaviour, challenging other men and making change that lasts.

Ladies and gentlemen,

UNFPA and other UN agencies in Viet Nam are working to deliver on a comprehensive, multi-stakeholder, innovative initiative to end all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

On this occasion, I call for enhanced joint efforts in making sure that women can live a life free of violence; enjoy equal access to opportunities and resources; Together, we can work towards a world where both men and women, and boys and girls, can enjoy life with dignity.

Ending violence against women should be a priority for every man and woman, government and company.  

Not until the half of our population represented by women and girls can live free of fear, violence and everyday insecurity, can we truly say we live in a fair and equal world.

Thank you very much for your attention and participation. I wish you all good health, happiness and success.