Child marriage persists in Vietnam's ethnic minority communities

By VnExpress   October 26, 2016 | 10:47 pm PT
Child marriage persists in Vietnam's ethnic minority communities
Ethnic students attend the new school year ceremony. Photo from the tourism ministry.
The problem goes on in all 63 provinces.

High levels of child marriage threaten Vietnam's society as a whole, said Nguyen Viet Tien, Deputy Minister of Health during a conference on October 25.

Vietnam’s Law on Marriage and Family sets the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for women and 20 for men, but many members of Vietnam's 54 ethnic minority communities continue to ignore the law.

In 2014, about 11 percent of the nation's female minors were married (up 2 percent from 2011) according to data that the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) updated in June.

Recent findings from the National Committee for Ethnic Minorities revealed child marriage rate among the ethnic minorities was 26.6 percent last year. Up to 73 percent of minors in the O Du ethnic minority community married before the age of consent, followed by 59.7 percent of minors surveyed in the H'Mong community.

Roughly half of the minors in smaller tribal populations like the Xing Mun, Ha Ra and Brau engage in the same practice.

Do Thi Quynh Huong, a top official from the Ministry of Health attributed the problem to outdated customs that force children to marry young, coupled with a lack of awareness about reproductive health.

Due to child marriage, Huong says many young women die during childbirth. The average age in many ethnic minority communities is around 45.

Child marriages also results in numerous problems like household poverty, lack of access to education, family break-ups and child neglect.

Nguyen Thi Tu, a top official from the National Committee for Ethnic Minorities, said Vietnam should extend reproductive health education and services to adolescents in their native languages.

“In the northernmost province of Ha Giang, about 28,000 females are illiterate, of which 18,000 can’t speak the national language. It’s time we launched propaganda campaigns in minority languages,” Tu said.

Vietnam aims to effectively end child marriage by 2025 by lowering the figure by 2-3 percent, annually.

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