|Experts discuss at the conference about women's access to justice held in Ha Noi. — Photo courtesy of UN Women
HA NOI (VNS) — Women's access to justice can be enhanced by addressing gaps in the framework for legal aid.
Experts agreed on this point at a workshop organised by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) and the justice ministry today in Ha Noi.
The workshop was attended by more than 60 people such as lawmakers, government leaders and representatives from the justice ministry, provincial government officers, as well as representatives from the United Nations, development partners and civil society organisations.
Tran Nguyen Tu, an expert from the department of legal aid under the justice ministry, said women's access to justice was limited in Viet Nam, and that there was a growing need for legal aid to protect their fundamental rights.
An assessment of the situation of women in the criminal justice system of UNODC in 2011 found that not many survivors of domestic violence applied for legal aid, and that 77 per cent of the cases were not brought to the attention of legal aid providers.
Tu said under the Legal Aid Law, groups of women needing legal support were not being able to get it.
The current policy overlooked gender inequality as not all women were able to access family income, while the eligibility for legal aid merely took the family income into account, he said.
Shoko Ishikawa, UN Women country representative, said, "The amendment of the Legal Aid Law, which was adopted in 2006, provides opportunities for addressing gaps in the legal framework for legal aid, thus enhancing women's access to justice in Viet Nam."
Many countries, including Viet Nam, use the ‘means' test as one way to determine eligibility for legal aid services. However, in some cases such as of domestic violence or where the woman did not have equal access to family income, calculating the means on the basis of the household income of a family would in effect hinder women's access to legal aid to pursue justice, she said.
Dao Le Thu, an expert from the Ha Noi Law University, suggested allowing more people to receive legal aid such as people living near the poverty line and female victims of gender violence.
More training should be given to legal workers, especially about gender responsibility, she said.
Many other representatives agreed that a legal aid system that fulfilled Viet Nam's international human rights obligations must assure that all people, no matter what their gender or economic status was, were in a position to access the courts for protection of all rights such as civil, political, economic and social, besides cultural rights, including the right to housing, subsistence and other necessities for all people, including women, men, children and minorities, besides indigenous people. — VNS