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Speech by United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Pratibha Mehta at the launching A National Joint Campaign in Response to the International Day on Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls

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Date: Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Venue: Melia Hotel, 44B Ly Thuong Kiet street, Ha Noi

  • Honorable Mr. Huynh Vinh Ai, Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism;
  • Honorable Ms. Nguyen Thuy Anh, Deputy Chairman of PCSA;
  • Honorable Mr. Leu Vu Dieu, Vice Chairman of Viet Nam Farmers' Union;
  • Honorable Mr. David Devine, Canadian Ambassador to Viet Nam;
  • Representatives from the line ministries and social organizations;
  • International development partners, UN Colleagues and media;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;


Thank you all for joining us today to the launch of the National communication campaign to eliminate violence against women and girls.

This is the 4th year that we are organizing our joint national 16 day campaign to raise awareness and action in line with the UN Secretary General's global campaign "Unite for ending violence against women and girls". This year, we are specifically focusing on theme of sexual violence, and we are calling for a public campaign reaching all segments of the society to help recognize, understand and take action to stop any form of violence, harassment, abuse of women and girls at home, schools, universities, communities, workplaces, streets - all public and private places.

This year campaign's focus is very much in line with what the CEDAW committee has recommended in July this year: (1) To strengthen legal framework to criminalize all forms of violence against women and ensure that victims have access to support services including free legal aid, medical and psychological care, shelters, counseling and livelihood support; and (2) to reinforce awareness-raising programmes to eliminate gender stereotypes associated with traditional gender roles in the family and in society, targeting officials at all levels, the judiciary and law enforcement personnel, teachers, parents and community leaders, as well as women and men and girls and boys, on the negative effects of harmful practices and discriminatory stereotypes on women's enjoyment of their right.

It is important that we talk about sexual violence and sexual harassment because it is a central factor in undermining women as human beings. Globally, one in every three women is subjected to physical or sexual violence by men, often close to her: father, husband, boyfriend, uncle, supervisor, colleague, etc. In the past year, through our TV screens, we have witnessed shocking attacks of violence against women and girls from around the world – from Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States, India, and even here in Viet Nam. Almost of these cases have sexual aspects, such as rape, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and forced marriage.

Sexual violence and harassment is a worldwide phenomenon and therefore UN Secretary General has called on for a global campaign. There is so much we need to do to tackle this issue, including changes in law and policies. For example, only 52 countries in the world have criminalized rapes within marriage. We need better enforcement but most of all we need to change people's mindset especially about masculinity and femininity. And we need to break our silence and speak about these issues. And we need men to raise voice side by side with women on gender equality and sexual violence against women.

We are happy that President Truong Tan Sang made a pledge in September at the United Nations Global Leaders Meeting on Gender Equality to be He for She – Men who stands for the rights of Women and he pledged that Viet Nam will devote all resources needed to bridge the gender gap in all domains to eliminate all forms of violence against women and set a target that at least 50% of reported victims of VAW will be provided with healthcare and counseling services. We need more He's for She's Champions at all levels to deal with the issues at so many levels.

According to the National Survey on Domestic Violence conducted in 2010, 58% of ever-married women said that they had experienced at least one form of physical, sexual and emotional violence from someone close, at some point in their lives.

87% said they had been sexually harassed in public.

10% said they had been sexually assaulted by their spouses.

30% of sex workers said they had been victims of sexual violence and 22% had experienced sexual coercion.

But 87% of victims did not seek help due to the lack of available services. Many were also afraid to speak up due to the fear of stigma, discrimination and further harassment.

The survey only included ever married women but it is a well researched fact that very young girls and unmarried women are also subjected to sexual violence and harassment.

The data clearly indicates urgent need for safe environment for victims of sexual violence to report and seek justice for violation of their dignity and human rights.

Ladies and gentlemen,

One of the most difficult challenges for ending VAWG, including in Viet Nam is to address cultural norms that are constructed by the patriarchal system, which contribute to gender stereotypes related to masculinity and femininity.

The topic of sexual violence is often considered too sensitive to discuss in public particularly because prejudices against victims of sexual violence consequently. Victims of sexual violence are themselves blamed for getting abused, they are labeled as morally loose women. So they keep silence and pay a huge price for the silence.

So often, people see flirtation, sexual harassment of women and girls is normal - something that men and boys do! They never question it, because societies have objectified women and see them only as sexual objects or someone who is needed only to perform sexual and reproductive functions.

Sexual harassment is also prevalent at work places. According to the ILO/MOLISA study on sexual harassment at workplace in 2013, in some cases, victims are forced to leave jobs or are fired if they refuse sexual requests. These factors not only affect self esteem of women but impacts on their long-term career progression, limiting women's future economic well-being.

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 harassed, abused, raped or sexually coerced by their own husband and other family members. For girls and women to talk about this is even more difficult.

Distinguished guests,

Too often gender-based violence is seen as 'just a woman's issue'. But let me tell you: it is also a man's issue! With men responsible for most of the violence against women and girls, men are naturally vital to the solution. A UN research on masculinity suggests that it is possible to tackle discriminatory attitudes and practices against women that lead to gender based violence and gender-biased sex selection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Tomorrow, 25th November, marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls, beginning of the world-wide 16 days of Activism against gender-based Violence.

The same time the world has embarked on a new 15-year journey towards equitable, inclusive and sustainable development. For the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to have a meaningful, positive impact, actions must be taken to break the cycle of violence against women and girls. Violence has denied millions of women and girls' ability and opportunities to contribute to the economic and social progress of the country.

Ending violence against women should be a priority for every men and women.

Our campaign "Take Action to End Violence against Women and Girls" will not be effective without active involvement of men and boys, as much as the involvement of girls in Viet Nam. As long as the dignity and well-being of half of humanity is at risk, peace, security and sustainable development will remain out of reach.

In the next 16 days we will take the campaign to schools, football stadiums, universities, provinces and through media.

Together, we can make Viet Nam safer and more equitable for women and girls.

Thank you and looking forward to a very successful campaign!