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When looking at gender discrimination in Asia, particularly Vietnam, one has to look deeper into history to finds out where the idea was orginated from.

Inside of a temple in Hanoi known as the Temple of Literature, which dedicated to Confucius.

Confucianism (儒教– ru jiao), is a philosophy that was fully formed and organized by a Chinese teacher/philosopher/politican named Confucius (551 BC – 479 BC), and was spread and developed by his disciples aiming to build a society with peace, harmony and prosperity[1].

In Confucianism, there are three main key relationships: minister serving ruler, son serving father, wife serving husband.Because family is one of the most important vital cell in society, and each individuals in one family represent the society itself; A stable society only happens when one fulfill his/her role in a relationship[2] .

Accordingly, the head of a family (mostly male) has the duty to protect his family. There is a strict order hierarchy that people have to follow. Starting from the Han period, Confucianism began to teach “Three Obediences and Four Virtues”, which stated that a virtous woman suppose to follow the males in her family: obedience to her father before marriage, obedience to her husband after marriage, and when her husband died, she has to obedient her eldest son.[3] The Four Virtues are: wifely virtue, wifely speech,wifely demeanour,and wifely work[3].

Moreover, women are not supposed to have sex before marriage, but men can have concubines: “ Men could take on concubines to produce heirs or simply for pleasure,…Legally, men owned their wives, and there was often little practical recourse for a woman against her husband, even though the laws of certain periods allowed for it”[4].

Consequently, people took advantage of these teachings to do patriarchal practices on women. The practice can distort the true purpose of this teachings to have a stabilize society if each individuals fulfill his/her role and force women in submission; thereby discriminate among genders.

Overview of Gender Discrimination in East Asia

Confucianism spread to East Asian countries, and had strong influences on Japan (Edo-Neoconfucianism in 1299)[5], Korea (Around 372 CE)[6], Vietnam(111 BC)[7]. It has shaped these societies and rooted so deep that even now, after thousand years, the philosophy still has not died out.

Overview of Gender Discrimination in Vietnam

Confucianism entered Vietnam in the period of Chinese domination in 111 BC[7]. Even though many people do not accept the gender role concept anymore, it has rooted in Vietnamese culture for over 2500 years. Hence, the consequence can be seen in nowadays through the datas below:

Gender Inequality Indexes

Gender Inequality Index Rank reflected inequality between women and men in three different dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment, and labour market participation.[8]

  • Vietnam Rank: 116[9]

Global Gender Gap Index Rank was designed to measure gender inequality within a country, according to health, education, politics, resources, and economy[8].

  • Vietnam Rank: 77 with 69.8%.[10] This explains that Vietnam has closed over 69.8% of their gender gap. Hence, there is still 30% that needed to be considered.
Violence Against Women Data

According to General Statistics Office of Vietnam in 2010[8]:

· Proportion of ever-partnered women aged 18-60 years experiencing intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime: 34%.[11]

· Proportion of ever-partnered women aged 18-60 years experiencing intimate partner physical and/or sexual violence in the last 12 months: 9%[11]

· Proportion of ever-partnered women aged 18-60 years experiencing sexual violence perpetrated by someone other than an intimate partner since age 15: 2%[12]

According to UNICEF global databases in 2018[8]:

· Percentage of women aged 20 to 24 years who were first married or in union before age 18: 11%


Literacy rate among the Vietnamese population according to UNESCO

It is evident that the overall literacy rate in Vietnam is high. Moreover, the difference bettween female and male literacy rate is also getting smaller over time. When consicered literacy rate in 2009, from 15 years and older, there is 95,79 percent of male population and 91.38 percent of female population. However, there is still a 4 percent difference in literacy rate in 2009, proving that there is still improvement that needed to be done to bring the two gender literacy rate to equality.

Literacy rate among the Vietnamese population according to UNESCO

According to Dtinews, a popular newspaper based in Vietnam, in Jan 2016 the literacy rate reached 97.3 percent for those aged 15-50.[13]


Abortion is legal in Vietnam. However, sex education is not working the way it is supposed to.  A survey conducted by the General Statistics Office of Vietnam in 2016 revealed that 70% of abortion was teenage (age 13 to 19) abortion. Furthermore, the survey also revealed that at least 8.4 percent of females from 15 to 24 have had at least one abortion.[14] It’s worth noting that this number is only accounted for those is public health facilities. Those that were done in private clinics were not accounted in official data.[15]

A report by doctors from Hanoi's Central Obstetrics Hospitalshowed that 40% of pregnancies to Vietnam end in abortion.[16] Furthermore, according to Alan Guttmacher Institute, a sexual health non profit research organization based in the US, “Among countries where abortion is legal without restriction as to reason, the highest abortion rate is recorded in Vietnam, with 83 abortions per 1000 women of childbearing age, compared to between 10 and 23 abortions per 1000 women in much of western Europe and the US”.[17]

Many parents and teachers do not want to talk about sex with children and students, because it is awkward and they are “shy” about it. Vnexpress, a Vietnamese newspaper, quoted the principal Tran Quoc Hai of Cat Linh High School in Hanoi, “In my school, some teachers responsible for sex education are not married, so how can they provide detailed information to students. Just showing images of human bodies to children makes them shy”.[14] Hence, young people can only know about it by secretly searching on the internet.

In front of a private clinic that offers 4D foetus imaging service, in central Hanoi, on October 22, 2014 ©Hoang Dinh Nam (AFP/File)

It is evident that sex education is clearly not really well practiced in Vietnam. The reason behind it is the philosphy of Cofucianism. Confucianism sees sexuality as taboo, and people are fobid to discuss or think about sex before marriage. [18]However, as male take advantage of partriachal practices, the virtue of chasity is practiced mostly by female; and this still exists even nowaday. Hence, this is evident of how Confucianism has rooted so deep in Vietnam society, that even now peole still refuse to talk about it publicly because it is considered shameful and unatural. Le Ngoc Bao, representative of family planning organization Pathfinder International, also said that "If they get (an) unwanted pregnancy... the only way (out) is to get an abortion."[16] This is because women have always been taught to keep their virginity until marriage for her husband. Hence, getting pregnant before marriage is unacceptable according to Confucianism.

Bride Buying

In Vietnam, the two problems have been popular for the past years, because of the needs of cash from Vietnamese women and shortage of wifes in countries like China and Korea. This problem has arised severely in Vietnam, escpecially in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam and the north border between China and Vietnam. Many Vietnamese women agree to do so, because they believe that foreigners husbands can provide them with better wealth; so that their husband can care for their family[19]. However, many women were tricked into false marriage, which they crossed the border and then realize they were trapped in trafficking. From 2012 to 2017, there were more than 3000 cases of human trafficking.[20]

Due to the Confucian preference for male children over female children in China due to one child policy, in 2020, there is an estimate of 30 million more Chinese men than women of marrying age[21].Therefore, due to the advantage in ratio, many Chinese women make it clear that in order to get marriage, male have to have house, car, etc. Hence, many Chinese or Korean men from poor areas decided to buy foreign brides, especially Vietnam, as it is cheaper. These brides are normally from 18 to 25 years old, and are matched up with Chinese/Korean/Japanese grooms via “third party agents”[22].

According to “The Wife Market” published on The Yale Globalist, a man (who paid a package between $7,000 USD and $10,000 USD that includes trip to Vietnam to select a bride) can select a few woman that he likes, examine them naked, and have the doctors perform a virgin check on her. Moreover, he can also have sex with the girl to check her purity. If he does not like her, he can claim that she is not a virgin and discard her.[23]


  1. Yao, Xinzhong (2000). "An Introduction to Confucianism". Cambridge University Press.: 44.
  2. Liao, Wen-Kuei (1959). The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu, A Classic of Chinese Political Science, Vol. II. London: Arthur Probsthain. p. 312.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Knapp, Keith (2003). Sancong Side 三从四德 [Threefold Obedience and Four Virtues]. Oxon: Routledge: The Encyclopedia of Confucianism: 2-Volume Set, ed. Xinzhong Yao. pp. 524–525.
  4. Shen, Lijuan, Paul D' Ambrosio. "Gender in Chinese Philosophy". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Craig, Edward (1998). Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Volume 7. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-415-07310-3.
  6. Cartwright, Mark. "Confucianism in Ancient Korea". Ancient History Encyclopedia.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Jones, John R. (September 15, 1994). Guide to Vietnam. Bradt Travel Guides; 2nd edition. p. 29. ISBN 978-1898323112.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "Global Database on Violence against Women".
  9. "Gender Inequality Index (GII)". 2017.
  10. World Economic Forum (Dec 2018). "The Global Gender Gap Report 2018" (PDF). World Economic Forum: 11.
  11. 11.0 11.1 General Statistics Office [Viet Nam], 2010 (2010). ""Keeping silent is dying"" (PDF). NATIONAL STUDY ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN VIET NAM: 17.
  12. General Statistics Office [Viet Nam], 2010 (2010). ""Keeping silent is dying"" (PDF). THE NATIONAL STUDY ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN VIET NAM: 19.
  13. (January 15, 2016). "Vietnam's literacy rate reaches 97.3 percent".
  14. 14.0 14.1 Bui, Hong Nhung (July 1, 2016). "Teenagers account for 70 percent of secret abortions in Vietnam".
  15. Saigoneer (July 2016). "Teenagers Account for 70% of Vietnam's 'Secret Abortions'".
  16. 16.0 16.1 AFP (25 November 2014). "Sky-high abortions in Vietnam as family planning excludes youth".
  17. Henshaw, Stanley K.; et al. (Jan 1999). "The Incidence of Abortion Worldwide". Guttmacher Institution. 25: 30–38. Explicit use of et al. in: |last= (help)
  18. Go VF (Aug 2002). "Gender gaps, gender traps: sexual identity and vulnerability to sexually transmitted diseases among women in Vietnam". U.S. National Library of Medicine. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports.
  19. VietNamNet Bridge (Sep 2012). "Mekong Delta girls "eager" in learning to become wives of Korean men". Vietnamnet.
  20. AFP, Dec 2018. "Mothers of the Missing: Anguished search for Vietnam's kidnapped brides".
  21. Sun, Wanning (Sep 2017). "'My parents say hurry up and find a girl': China's millions of lonely 'leftover men'".
  22. Chong, Chee Kin (July 2002). "Mate-in-Vietnam Marriages". YaleGlobal Online.
  23. Wray, Caroline (Dec 2014). "The Wife Market". The Yale Globalist.