Women battle with tradition of inequality

Update: September, 28/2014 - 21:27

by Ha Nguyen

Be Thu Huong, 32, gave up her job due to her husband's insistence that she stays home and cares for their son. But she recently found independence by setting up her own travel company.

Huong and her husband, Nguyen Van Tien, met at university. When they graduated, the couple got steady jobs in the northern province of Thai Nguyen. Huong worked for a State-owned company while Tien applied for a job at a foreign-invested company and quickly became a key manager.

He earned a lot of money, but his family commitment towards his wife declined. He went to work early in the morning and returned home very late.

He asked Huong to stay at home to look after their child, saying family should be "number one". She didn't want to but finally agreed.

After Huong gave up her job, Tien didn't pay much attention to his wife and son other than giving her an allowance.

"I waited for him every day for dinner but he didn't return home and often stayed outside overnight," Huong said.

One day she caught her husband red-handed with a young girl working in a beer shop. Despite Tien's explanations, Huong completely gave up faith in her husband. But while she wanted to divorce him, she worried that doing so would have a negative impact on the rest of her family.

"I thought if I did so, my son would have no father and my parents would be very sad," she said.

Huong joined a friend to open a clothes shop, which did very well. Later they opened a travel company and a PR agency.

"I earned a lot of money but my husband still didn't know. One day he came home earlier than usual. He didn't see me and my son but he couldn't contact me because my mobile phone was busy," Huong recalled.

Tien finally found them at a big restaurant with a handsome man, where they were eating and talking very joyfully.

Tien was shocked. He intended to shout at his wife and give the man a blow but he tried to regain his composure, realising that he had not spent time with his family for a long time.

He went to the man, shook his hand and thanked him for taking care of his wife and son. Then he told Huong that he loved her and promised to return home earlier after work.

Unlike Huong's story, Bui Thi Nha, 35, did not experience such a happy ending.

Nha, who comes from the northern province of Cao Bang, fell in love while studying at the National Economics University in Ha Noi. She moved in with her boyfriend and soon was taking care of him, from preparing meals to washing his clothes.

"But he didn't respect me and hear me. He always engaged in drunken merrymaking with his friends at night. I endured it with the hope that one day he would marry me," said Nha.

But her situation worsened after they married. While Nha and her husband held the same degree, he still treated her like a home helper. She never dared to ask him why he came home late. Nor did she know how much he earned. If she wanted to buy anything, she had to ask him for the money.

More than 10 years have passed, and the situation remains the same.

"He demands me to completely obey him. I will be beaten if I contradict him," Nha said in tears.

Psychologist Nguyen Thi Mui of the Ha Noi Consultant Centre for Family Issues praised Huong for being proactive. In contrast, Nha should not allow her husband to treat her like a slave, Mui said.

"Many women think they are suffering to protect the peace and happiness of their families, but that's not the case," said Mui.

On the occasion of Vietnamese Women's Day, the message "Women, let's stop suffering..." filled Internet forums. — VNS