HA NOI (VNS) — Violence against women in Viet Nam is often fueled by a pervasive association of masculinity with toughness and dominance, which men typically acquire in adolescence, researchers said at a workshop on gender discrimination yesterday.
|Volunteers hand out literature containing information about the consequences of the imbalanced sex ratio and preventing domestic violence to local people in the northern province of Bac Giang Province's Son Dong District. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Ngoc
Men believed they were expected to look manly, be decisive and confident and never do "women's work" such as housework and childcare, according to one study presented at the workshop.
Carried out in Ha Noi, HCM City, Da Nang City and central Quang Nam Province, the study focused on exploring the attitudes and perceptions of male and female adolescents toward gender equality and masculinity.
"Masculinities are socially constructed and have a material existence at several levels: in culture and institutions, in personality and in the social definition and use of the body," said Vu Thanh Long, member of the research team.
"In Viet Nam, masculinity is often defined by characteristics such as aggressiveness, dominant behavior, decisiveness and sexual capability. Research also indicate that men are often driven to prove or legitimise their masculinity through their ability to drink, earn money and ‘tame' their wives and discipline their children."
In general, the results showed that most young people agreed with all of these gender inequitable statements, Long said, suggesting that these perceptions are incredibly pervasive among young people.
The study also reveals how masculinity is taught both at home and at school. In the domestic sphere, sons are encouraged to apply themselves to studying and careers. They do not have to do housework or take on family responsibilities and are allowed to use violence to protect themselves.
At school, students are taught about "strong gender" and "weak gender" through work assignments and messages passed on by teachers, Long added.
"Recommendations from the study include promoting positive masculinities such as male involvement in housework sharing and childcare, promoting violence-free family and educational models and implementing educational campaigns to boost gender equity, prevent violence and build relationship skills in schools," he said.
Another study on gender, masculinity and son preference, which surveyed men aged 18-49, indicated that 26 per cent of men agreed that a woman deserved to be beaten and 90 per cent of men agreed that to be a man " needs to be tough."
The study, carried out in northern Hung Yen Province and the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta's Can Tho Province in 2011, also found a high prevalence of violence against intimate partners.
Violence was not necessarily socially acceptable in Viet Nam, but men's control and authority over their wives was widely legitimised, according to the third study presented at the workshop, in which researchers interviewed men and women in Ha Noi and Hue City to explore the connections between masculinities, gender and power.
All three studies concluded that boys and men, together with girls and women, have an essential role in ending violence.
The UNFPA Representative in Viet Nam, Mandeep K. O'Brien, stressed that discrimination and violence against women and girls anywhere in the world is a social ill and a human rights violation.
"Men have a critical role to play in ending such violations and upholding the rights of women and girls. Women alone cannot end gender discrimination and gender-based violence; it must be done in partnership with men," she said.
She emphasised that dominant male attitudes and behaviours continued to underpin and reinforce gender inequality.
"Men often have strong decision-making roles and power in the economic, political, social and family spheres. Therefore, it is absolutely critical to have their commitment to address any aspect of gender inequality, including eradicating violence against women," she said. "Because violence against women is rooted in gender inequality and discrimination against women and girls, any efforts to eliminate such violence must focus on the achievement of equality between women and men and on the promotion and protection of women's human rights."
She noted that this required a co-ordinated and multifaceted effort by a variety of stakeholders including the Government, development partners, NGOs and other sectors.
"Women's empowerment is a critical aspect of preventing gender discrimination and gender-based violence in Viet Nam, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives," she added.
The first national study on domestic violence against women in Viet Nam, launched in 2010, showed that one in three married women reported they had suffered physical or sexual violence from their husbands at some point.
The studies presented in the workshop were carried out during the 2011-12 period by the UNFPA and UN Women in partnership with Partners for Prevention (P4P) and Peace and Development (P&D). — VNS