HA NOI — Although Viet Nam's current system of laws on property and land relations have created a favourable environment for the practice of equal access by women, gaps causing disadvantages for this group remain, experts say.
"Improving law popular-isation and enhancing the quality of grassroots legal constancy services can help," said Dr Nguyen Thi Phuong Cham, of the Institute of Culture Studies, while presenting research findings over women's access to land in Viet Nam at the 3rd Legal Empowerment for Asian Partnership Meeting held yesterday.
She said that kinship practices with preferences towards sons, especially in rural areas, and gender structure with respect to the responsibilities of women and roles of men were among the main barriers for women.
A lack of knowledge pertaining to administrative procedures, education and language, especially in cases of women from ethnic groups, were interconnected, preventing them from utilising legal and law implementation services to assist them in their claims, she said.
Meanwhile, Nicholas Booth, UNDP Police Advisor for Rule of Law and Access to Justice, said that women, together with other underprivileged groups such as the poor, ethnic minorities and HIV-infected people, needed to know their rights and be able to act on those rights.
UNDP Viet Nam Country Director Bakhodir Burkhanov said that since 2008, the Commission on Legal Empowerment of the Poor has reported that nearly 4 billion people lack "the full protection of the rule of law".
Access to justice and the rule of law is a crucial element on which the livelihoods of poor people depend, and whose realisation is essential for their own human development, he said.
President of the Viet Nam Lawyers' Association Pham Quoc Anh said that legal assistance was meant to deliver constancy to detail particular cases while legal empowerment should equip people with legal knowledge and help them to use it.
He said that in over a year the association and UNDP had established five legal consultation centres across the country that offer legal advice and assistance for people to exercise their property rights.
Nguyen Kien Quoc, director of one of such centres in central Binh Thuan Province, said that when the Phan Ri-Phan Thiet Irrigation Projects (worth VND1 trillion (US$48 million)) started in 2008, nearly 1,900 local households were affected by land acquisition and the process of site clearance and compensation was too slow.
"There was a high need for legal aid for most of the households, though few were aware of land pricing, compensation policies for housing and plantations or the complaints procedures," he said, adding that legal training courses were useful to both land officers and residents. — VNS