New Study Shows High Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Viet Nam

  • 29 November 2010

HANOI, Viet Nam – One in three, or 34 per cent, of ever-married Vietnamese women report that they have suffered physical or sexual violence from their husbands at some time in their lives, according to the National Study on Domestic Violence Against Women, launched by the Government of Viet Nam and the United Nations. Of those, 9 per cent are currently subjected to violence from their husbands.

When all three main types of partner violence – physical, sexual and emotional – are considered, more than half (58 per cent) of Vietnamese women report experiencing at least one type of domestic violence in their lifetime. The study findings also show that women are three times more likely to be abused by a husband than by any other person.

“For the first time, a study seeks to obtain detailed information nationwide about the prevalence, frequencies and types of violence against women, looking at the health outcomes of domestic violence, the factors that may protect or put women at risk of domestic violence and showing coping strategies and services that women use to deal with domestic violence,” explained Tran Thi Hang, Deputy General Director of the General Statistics Office.

Most women at risk

New data from the study highlight the fact that most women in Viet Nam are potentially at risk of domestic violence at some point in their lives. In some regions of the country, the home is not a safe place for four out of ten women. In the southeast region, for example, 42 per cent of women report having experienced physical or sexual violence by their husbands at some time. However, while there are regional variations, greater differences are evident between different ethnic groups, with reported lifetime prevalence rates of domestic violence ranging from 8 per cent (H’Mong) to 36 per cent (Kinh).

“Although domestic violence is widespread, the problem is very much hidden,” said Ms. Henrica A.F.M. Jansen, the lead researcher of the study. “Besides the stigma and shame causing women to remain silent, many women think that violence in relationships is ‘normal’ and that women should tolerate and endure what is happening to them for the sake of family harmony.” In fact, one in two women said that before the survey interviews, they had never told anyone about instances of violence by their husbands.

“This report highlights the urgency of breaking the silence,” stressed Jean Marc Olive, WHO Representative in Viet Nam. “All of us owe it to the women who suffer from domestic violence, and the women who took part in this survey, to step up, speak out, and end domestic violence.”

Serious physical and pyschological effects

It is clear that domestic violence has serious consequences on both the physical and mental health of women. In Viet Nam, one in four women who were physically or sexually abused by their husbands reported suffering physical injuries, and more than half of them reported being injured multiple times. Compared to women who have never been abused, those who have experienced partner violence are almost twice as likely to report poor health and physical problems, and three times more likely to have ever thought of suicide.

Pregnant women are also at risk. According to the report, about 5 per cent of women who had been pregnant reported being beaten during pregnancy. In almost all of these cases, the women had been abused by the father of the unborn child.

Although domestic violence takes a heavy toll on women, children are also victims. Almost one in four women with children under 15 years of age reported that their children have been abused physically by their husbands. The study indicates that domestic violence poses serious risks for the well-being of the children. For example, the report shows that children living in a household where their mother was abused by her husband were more likely to have behavioural problems compared to other children.

“Women who have been abused have more chances to have a husband whose mother was beaten or who was himself beaten when he was a child. The childhood experience of the husband is an important risk factor with respect to him being a perpetrator later in life,” said Jansen. This reinforces the idea that violence is a learned behaviour.

Nearly 5,000 women interviewed

The research team for the study interviewed 4,838 women between 18 and 60 years old, representing the general population of women of these ages in Viet Nam. Ninety in-depth interviews and four focus groups were also conducted in Hanoi, and in Hue and Ben Tre provinces. The methodology used replicated the one developed for the World Health Organization Multi-country Study on Women’s health and Domestic Violence, which uses a tested, standard questionnaire and a methodology ensuring comparability of data with other settings.

The study, undertaken as part of the United Nations-Government of Viet Nam Joint Programme on Gender Equality, was conducted by the General Statistics Office , with technical assistance from WHO and the participation of national consultants from the Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population, the Ministry of Health and an international consultant. The study was funded by the Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. A consultative approach was used throughout, with stakeholders representing government, national civil society and the international community involved in all phases of the study, from planning the study to interpretation and endorsement of the results, as well as formulation of the recommendations.

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