Erase backward-thinking prejudice hindering the fight for gender equality

The first-ever symphony concert “Girls Deserve to Shine”, which featured promising and outstanding Vietnamese young female soloists, was organized on November 27 at the Hanoi Opera House.

 Symphony concert “Girls Deserve to Shine” opens at the Hanoi Opera House on November 27. Photo: UNFPA Vietnam

The event was hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MOCST) and the Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra. The concert was part of the National Action Month on Gender Equality and Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls and 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

This concert is the initiative between the Government of Vietnam and UNFPA in joining hands to raise public awareness and increase the value of the girl child within the context of addressing domestic violence and gender-biased sex selection in Vietnam.

Addressing the concert, Trinh Thi Thuy, Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism said: “With the pervasive power of art, with the sublimation of the emotions from the music, let's work together towards better things. Let’s join hands to eliminate backward thinking and prejudice. Let’s change perceptions and behaviors to eliminate domestic violence, discrimination between boys and girls, and inequality between women and men. The home, which should be a place of love, comfort, and security, does not necessarily seem to be, for too many Vietnamese women – and for their children – a safe place to be.” 

Gender equality in Vietnam has improved over the past decades, however, domestic violence and gender-biased sex selection as harmful practices for women and girls continue to remain in the country.

The 2019 National Study on Violence against Women, which was conducted by the Government of Vietnam with financial and technical support from UNFPA and the Government of Australia, shows that nearly 2 in 3 women (62.9 per cent) experienced one or more forms of physical, sexual, emotional, and economic violence and controlling behaviours by their husbands in their lifetime. But domestic violence is largely hidden in Vietnam. Almost half of women did not tell to anyone, and all women (90.4 per cent) who experienced physical and/or sexual violence from husbands did not seek any help from formal service providers, largely because of the fear of stigma, discrimination and further harassment. 

The manifestation of gender biased sex selection can be directly measured through “sex ratio at birth (SRB),” and Vietnam’s sex ratio at birth is the third highest in the world, following China and India. The unbalanced sex ratio at birth was first identified in Vietnam in 2004, and since 2005, it has rapidly increased and reached 111.5 male births for every 100 female births in 2019 as indicated in the 2019 Population and Housing Census, against the biologically “natural” or “normal” sex ratios between 105 and 106. 

Evidence shows that this demographic imbalance is a result of pre-natal sex selection, which is the termination of pregnancy when the fetus is determined to be female. UNFPA’s State of the World Population Report estimates that every year, 40,800 female births are missing in Vietnam. It means that 40,800 girls are not born every year in Vietnam because they were found to be a girl. This has to be changed immediately, and it is one of key messages of the concert. 

This is the first-ever symphony concert, which features promising and outstanding young female soloists to connect people, women and men, boys and girls from different socio-cultural backgrounds in different parts of Vietnam and in different parts of the world.

“The underlying cause of all these is gender-inequality and under-valuing of girls and women, so tonight, we are gathered here for solidarity to appreciate the value of the gild child, as equal as to boys. Let the power of music brings us together. Each one of us has a unique role and a shared responsibility to address issues that affect us all towards inclusive, equitable and sustainable development in Vietnam,” said Naomi Kitahara, UNFPA Representative at the opening of the concert.

Mai Nguyen