July 7, 2015
On 12 June 2015, with the support of the Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF) and the Congress of World Hmong People (CWHP), UNPO submitted an alternative report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), for the consideration of the seventh and eighth reports of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, during its 61st session. The report analyses the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women to evaluate compliance with and implementation of the provisions of the Convention by the Government of Viet Nam, with regard to the particular cases of the Degar-Montagnard, Hmong and Khmer Krom communities. The Committee will examine the situation of Viet Nam this week [6-10 July 2015].
The report highlights, among others, the marginalization and discrimination faced by Degar-Montagnard women. The violation of their human rights and fundamental freedoms raises serious concern, as their freedom of religion is continually suppressed. In July 2014, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief reported scheduling and then cancelling visits to several provinces, as he had received reports that some individuals he had planned to visit had been under surveillance and intimidated by the authorities. A Degar-Montagnard woman was even arrested for her refusal to join the Evangelical Church of Viet Nam. Meanwhile, women and girls are also deprived of their right to reproductive health. For example, the Montagnard Foundation reported numerous cases of Degar-Montagnard women forcefully sterilized by the Vietnamese authorities, or injected with substances temporarily preventing pregnancies.
This report also underlines the discrimination and marginalization faced by women belonging to the Hmong people, victims of violent repression and discrimination due to their religious beliefs. Since the beginning of 2015, the Congress of World Hmong People received many concerning calls from several regions of Viet Nam by Hmong women, mostly Christian, who were facing harassment due to their religious beliefs. They reported that local authorities pressured them to convert back to the more traditional Animist cults.
Finally, this report tackles the human rights violations suffered by Khmer Krom women, who face unjust and illegal repression for trying to defend their land ownership. When women ask for their confiscated farmlands, they face oppression from the Government. For instance, the Vietnamese authorities set on fire the house of a woman who had been peacefully protesting against the unlawful seizure of her land. Khmer Krom women also struggle to stay in school, the use and study of Khmer are discouraged and only 73.5% of the community is literate. In particular, women from ethnic minorities are the worst off in terms of education, suffering from a double discrimination. In terms of health, the free healthcare programme, which allowed among others for free health check-ups during pregnancies, was revoked. More in general, rural and ethnic minority women lack access to healthcare services.
UNPO calls upon the Committee to urge the Government of Viet Nam to recognize structural and substantive challenges that Degar-Montagnard, Hmong and Khmer Krom women face in their daily lives and to take appropriate measures to tackle them. Here are some of UNPO’s recommendations:
- End any kind of repression against ethnic minorities exercising their freedom of religion and belief;
- Provide equal opportunity for indigenous women to access the job market by tackling the issue of discrimination and setting up national campaigns to combat widespread stereotypes about ethnic minorities;
- Provide equal opportunity for indigenous peoples to access education, especially graduate and doctoral programmes abroad by distributing scholarships on the basis of merit rather than ethnic origin;
- Reinstall the free health care programme allowing those lacking financial means to have access to basic health care, including check-ups for pregnant women;
- Disseminate information about AIDS and how to prevent it among ethnic minority women;
- Continue working toward the maternal mortality ratio of 58.3 per 100,000 live births, and focus more specifically on reducing maternal mortality rates among minority ethnic groups;
- Invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to investigate the situation of the Khmer Krom women who are land rights activists and who are repeatedly silenced for exercising their basic right;
- Continue working on initiatives to promote women’s social and economic development in rural areas, without forgetting minority women who live in extreme poverty and are often left out of national initiatives because of the discrimination they face.
To access UNPO’s Alternative Report, please click here.