Forum raises a call to protect girls in public places and end child marriage

Monday, 2018-10-08 16:06:57
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Ethnic minority girls from ‘Hoa Ban’ team delivering their presentation at the forum.
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NDO – Through their own stories in daily life, 100 girl representatives attending the recent National Forum on Girls 2018 have raised a call to protect girls in public places and end child marriage.

The forum was held in Hanoi from October 5 to 7 by the National Assembly’s Committee for Culture, Education, Youth, Adolescents and Children, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, the Central Committee of Ho Chi Minh Youth Union, and Plan International Vietnam.

A place where early marriage is seen as “common”

Ho Thi Thuy lives in the most remote commune in Chiem Hoa district, Quang Binh province. None in the village can remember from when their families have settled down there. Everyday, the youth go to work in the fields while the elder stay at home to take care children.

At the forum, Thuy revealed that girls in her village are assumed to get married at around 15 or 16. Some of them even coupled at 12 or 13. Villagers do not get married to one from other villages.

When girls grow up and find that they like someone, they get pregnant and discuss about marriage with their parents without registration of marriage or relevant legal procedures, Thuy said.

Not long ago, Thuy’s brother got married. Thuy’s sister-in-law is no one else but Mai, her cousin next door. The reason for the marriage is simple, which is seen as common in the village: first comes baby, then comes marriage.

Mai was 14 at that time. Getting married in the village also means that girls have to drop out from school. As Mai was too young, she was sent to district’s hospital for caesarean section for the baby's delivery. Fortunately, the arrival of the baby was successful.

However, according to the village‘s custom, women are not allowed to return home after giving birth, they have to stay with their babies in a small hut. No social and reproductive knowledge, no baby care skills, the custom had high potential for risk of survival of Mai and her baby. The long-standing and backward tradition still won at the end, as usual.

Although it has been several years since the baby was born, Thuy’s family has not yet cleared all the debt from taking her daughter-in-law to the hospital for Mai’s delivery. There are many other households in the village who still have their daughter-in-law give birth at home. Although it is very dangerous, it is partly because of difficult conditions, and long-standing tradition, according to Thuy.


Ho Thi Thuy from Chiem Hoa district, Quang Binh province shares her story at the forum

A number of alarming problems still remain

Taking place under the theme ‘Promoting girls’ rights for changes and development’, the National Forum on Girls also attracted the participation from leaders of a number of National Assembly (NA) committees, ministries, sectors and social organisations.

Focusing on two major topics of “Girls’ safety in rural areas” and “Child marriage and its consequences”, the participants shared their opinions on the situation and challenges facing millions of Vietnamese girls in public places, on their way to school and throughout stages of growing.

Whenever New Year celebrations or traditional festival come, girls in mountainous regions feel increasingly worried on their way to the fields, local markets or schools because they might be caught to become the wife of someone they don’t have feelings for or even a stranger, shared ethnic minority girls from ‘Hoa Ban’ team during their presentation at the forum.

According to local tradition, within three days after they are caught, the girl is considered as a married woman and she obviously becomes a member of the kidnapper’s family.

Oddly enough, many people accused that girls just waste their time attending school, declaring that a good girl should stay at home and work the farm with parents.

For that reason, many girls in ‘Hoa Ban’ team’s village become mothers of two or three children by the age of 18. Many of their husbands are jobless, alcoholic or even drug addicts. With no happiness in the family, many marriages end with divorces, according to the team’s members.

Girl representatives at the forum also gave suggestions and proposals on how to ensure right and interest for girls, including the building of entertainment spaces and works designed exclusively for girls.

Meanwhile, officials from agencies, ministries, sectors and organisations listened to and answered questions raised by the girls and reaffirmed their commitment for prompt actions to guarantee safety for children, especially girls, in public places and to address child marriage in the living areas of ethnic minority groups.