By Zhang Jianhua
VIENTIANE, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) — “There is a woman in my neighborhood whose husband often gets drunk and they two often quarrel. He spends a lot of money on drinking and often beat her after he gets drunk,” Soudchay, a 28-year-old Lao resident told Xinhua on Thursday in Lao capital Vientiane.
“Women in Laos still suffer from violence at the hands of men, because some men think it’s normal behavior. They are ignorant and disrespectful of women. Some men still think of women as being of less importance, in line with longstanding cultural beliefs,” Sonesadeth Manychan, a government official in Vangvieng district, Vientiane province said recently when being asked about the situation of violence against women in her country.
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women which falls on Nov. 25, many Lao people has raised their voices over the issue.
A survey on Lao women’s health conducted in 2014 showed that one in three married women suffered at least one kind of violence. Some 7 percent experienced sexual violence from husbands or partners and 12 percent suffered physical violence.
A number of Lao girls also suffered sexual violence. A survey on child violence conducted previously found that 94 of 1,000 births were delivered by girls aged between 10 and 19, which is the highest number of young girls delivering births compared to other countries in the region.
Some 5 percent of these girls did not want to have sex before 18 years, according to local Vientiane Times.
Delivering a message to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Lao Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone said that violence against women has been caused by discrimination against women, uncivilized and outdated traditions, superstition, poor education and gender views, among others.
The occurring violence has caused physical and spiritual impacts on women, depriving them from participating in the development process, the deputy prime minister said, adding that violence against women has brought negative impacts on socio-economic development and it is an enormous obstacle for gender equality.
In a move to address the issue, the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 1979 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which came into force in 1981.
A number of action plans have been undertaken to protect the rights and interests of women and girls.
According to Sonexay Siphandone, in Laos, a policy has been implemented to promote and develop women and girls in an attempt to ensure they enjoy equal rights politically, economically, socially and culturally as men and boys do and ensure that their interests are protected.
“I think that women are better protected today because it is recognized that they have the same rights as men and the government is also doing more to curb violence against women. But this problem still occurs, especially in rural areas among people who are poorly educated and don’t understand that women should not be treated badly,” said Livata Vongsombath, a businessman in Vientiane.
“It’s one thing to have a law that protects women, but we need to make sure it is widely respected and enforced. I’m a man and I think the use of violence is deplorable. No one should take advantage of their physical strength to harm women,” the young businessman told local daily Vientiane Times this week.
Sharing the same view, Soudchay, the Vientiane resident agreed that a law is necessary to impose severe penalties on any man who beats his wife or any other woman.
“It is good to have strict legal regulations on this issue. All men and women should be aware of the regulations, then women know that they are protected and men may be afraid of being punished. Strict punishment would be a good way to protect women from violence and let everyone know that it is unacceptable and illegal,” Soudchay told Xinhua.
Meanwhile, Sonesadeth, the government official in Vangvieng district expected that the authorities should pay more attention to this problem and give women more support by making people understand that physical violence is wrong. In her view, education is important in dealing with the issue.
“Men and women have the same rights and that should be respected. All women should be able to go to school and be trained to the same level as men so they can compete on any level. They should feel free to discuss all issues, solve problems and make decisions, and to share their ideas about things,” Sonesadeth said.
The presence of counselors is also being proposed to help Lao women. “From what I see, Lao women are afraid and embarrassed to talk about their problems with their friends. It would be a good idea to train counselors so there are people available to help and advise women who have been abused,” businessman Livata said.
With a number of women continuing to suffer violence, Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone has called for joint efforts from all walks of life to put an end to violence against women by intensifying the campaign and awareness-raising to change outdated traditions, discriminatory attitudes and views toward women.
He pressed the need to provide necessary assistance to victims of violence, ensure women have access to education and training, employment and services, while carrying out activities and enforcing laws to eliminate any violence against women and children.
Meanwhile, increasing regional and international cooperation in the fight to eliminate all forms of domestic violence will also contribute to addressing the issue, said the official.