Two in three Vietnamese women suffer domestic abuse

By Minh Nga   July 14, 2020 | 05:04 am PT
Two in three Vietnamese women suffer domestic abuse
A woman begs her husband to stop beating her. Illustration photo by UNFPA.
A survey found 63 percent of Vietnamese women live with physical, sexual, emotional, economic or behavioral abuse from husbands or partners.

The results came from the second national study on violence against women in Vietnam, conducted last year by the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs in collaboration with the General Statistics Office. The first survey was commenced in 2010.

The study, released Tuesday, received technical and financial support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It aims to shed light on what still needs to be done to boost gender equality and eliminate gender-based violence in Vietnam.

From a pool of nearly 6,000 women aged 15 - 64 across Vietnam, the survey found that nearly two in three, or 62.9 percent experienced one or more forms of domestic abuse: physical, sexual, emotional, economic violence, and controlling behavior from male partners in their life time.

Nearly 32 percent of the women suffer the abuse within the year.

According to the study, the ratio of women physically abused by husbands/partners in 2019 has dropped compared to 2010, at 26.1 percent against 31.5 percent.

However, more women have reported being sexually abused in 2019 compared to 2010, with a ration of 13.3 percent versus 9.9 percent. According to the survey team, while this reflects an increase in sexual violence, it may also be the result of a social change in which women have become more open to talking about sexuality and sexual violence after one decade.

Emotional violence by a husband/partner was the most common form of violence reported by Vietnamese women with nearly half (47 percent) having encountered such behavior.

One in five of women experienced economic abuse by a husband/partner during their lifetime and more than one fourth (27.3 percent) suffered one or more acts of controlling behavior.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, some women told the survey team the story of their life, during which they had suffered from violence perpetrated by their husbands.

A 50-year-old woman now working as a volunteer to support women in her ward said she had been physically assaulted at various times by her husband during their 26-year marriage.

"My face looks no different than a map," she said, referring to her scars.

The husband had started beating her early on, even when she was two months pregnant with their first child. She had filed for divorce once but changed her mind after he had promised to change, only to enter a second, more deadly phase of marriage. Once, he even attacked her with a chopping knife, causing a deep incision that needed immediate stitching.

Deep down she always hoped he would change, but in vain. Eventually, she gathered the courage to leave him three years ago.

At 54, a law graduate recalled how she has been humiliated by her husband during their 10-year marriage since he forbade her to enter employment.

"Where are you working as a prostitute?" he once asked her while at work. He had used the term many times, even in front of their son, besides beating and shaming her.

When her son was five he asked her: "Dad said you’re working as a prostitute. So what is a prostitute, mom?"

Seven years later, it was her son who finally motivated her to end the marriage. "Break up with dad, mom," he urged her.

In another instance, a 46 year-old-woman said her husband has always been obsessed thinking she would one day have an affair.

With her being in perimenopausal and not interested in sex, her husband is now even more paranoid, demanding to know exactly where she is at all times.

Sleeping in the same bed, he always grips her hands tight, worried she could run away. He had four knives hidden under the mattress and more than once, put one to her throat, threatening to kill her if she dared to have an affair.

Nguyen Thi Ha, Deputy Minister of Social Affairs, said: "After almost a decade, positive change can now be seen among young women as they are stronger and more determined in fighting domestic abuse. Those with higher education tend to suffer less from domestic abuse than the rest, which proves that education plays a key role, helping women grow more confident, independent and stronger."

However, it is a fact many stories of domestic abuse against women remain hidden by victims themselves.

"Social and cultural silence and stigma is still prevalent, preventing the abused from raising their voice and reaching for help," she said.

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