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Cablegate: First-Ever National Assembly Donors Forum On the Gender

VZCZCXRO5634
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #2434 2640954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 210954Z SEP 06
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3486
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 1862
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 002434

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM VM SOCI

SUBJECT: First-Ever National Assembly Donors Forum on the Gender
Equality Draft Law in Vietnam


1. (U) Summary: On September 15, 2006, the National Assembly held
its first-ever forum to meet with foreign donors and international
agency representatives to discuss how to improve the current draft
Gender Equality Law. The participants agreed that, with gender
inequality a serious problem in Vietnam, the time is ripe for this
legislation. The participants further agreed that the National
Assembly would likely need to create a new State agency to
effectively implement the law. Although the forum allowed for a
wide-ranging discussion of the draft legislationQs flaws, the many
suggestions given by the donor community will not make it into the
law in time for its submission at the upcoming National Assembly
session. However, the suggestions may be incorporated into the
lawQs implementing decree. End Summary.

2. (U) On September 15, 2006, the National Assembly (NA) held its
first-ever forum to discuss the current draft Gender Equality Law.
The forum drew approximately 40 participants from the NA and the
international donor community, including: Ton Nu Thi Ninh,
Vice-Chairwoman, NA Committee for Foreign Affairs; Tran Thi Minh
Chanh, Vice-Chairwoman NA Committee for Social Affairs; Mr. Luong
Phan Cu, Vice-Chairman, NA Committee for Social Affairs; Mr. Nguyen
Si Dung, Office of National Assembly Vice-Chairman; John Hendra,
UNDP Country Representative; the Ambassadors from Canada, Singapore,
Thailand, Sweden and Switzerland; gender equality specialists from
Sri Lanka; and, approximately 30 outside participants.
Vice-Chairwoman Chanh began the meeting by noting that feudal
practices still exist in Vietnam, and they prevent women from
participating in all spheres of life.

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3. (SBU) In discussing the legislation, the NA members noted that:

-- women continue to receive 15-20 percent lower income than men;
-- there continue to be concerns regarding how VietnamQs existing
legal framework can support this law;
-- the legislation does not provide specific measures to increase
womenQs participation in politics. (Note: Women account for 27
percent of the NA, 11.29 percent of ministerial and equivalent
positions, 12.85 percent of vice ministerial and equivalent
positions and 12 out of 160 members of the PartyQs Central
Committee. End Note);
-- the difference in retirement age between men and women remains an
issue of contention, since currently women in Vietnam must retire
five years earlier than their male counterparts;
-- and, it remains to be determined which government ministry will
take the lead on this law, or whether a new State agency should be
created.

4. (SBU) John Hendra of UNDP stated that, should it enact a gender
equality law, Vietnam would be the 34th country in the world and the
fifth in Asia to do so. That said, he also noted that the law in
its current draft form needed several revisions:

-- the law should include provisions on the rights of women and the
governmentQs responsibility to protect these rights;
-- the law needs a clear implementation provision, including naming
responsible agencies and benchmarks;
-- the definition of non-discrimination should be made clear;
-- and, the law should include a transparent set of sanctions for
those who violate the law.

5. (SBU) A World Bank representative further noted that a survey of
the labor force would be useful to monitor and improve gender
equality. On the subject of the lawQs implementation, practically
everyone who spoke at the forum agreed that the NA would need to
create a new State agency to effectively implement the law. Several
participants also spoke out regarding the need for improved
definitions in the law, including definitions of intended and
unintended discrimination. The issue of retirement appeared to be
one of the most important issues, particularly among the Vietnamese
participants, but everyone agreed that the retirement age should be
equal for men and women. Furthermore, by establishing a pension
plan, both men and women would be able to choose their own
retirement age.

6. (SBU) Madam Ninh admitted that passing this law would be a big
step for the NA because Qthere are several male members of the NA
that are suspicious about the law and hesitant to change traditional
ways.Q She said she hopes to introduce the law to the NA on
September 17 and pass it at the NAQs session in November.
Therefore, many of the suggestions made at the donor forum would not
be incorporated into the law because of time constraints. However,
the useful suggestions could be added later to the implementing
decree. Establishing a new national agency on gender equality would
be most valuable, but, unless it is headed by a strong
national-level executive, Qit will be useless,Q she predicted.

ALOISI

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