The national conference takes place on June 29 to address child and early marriage.(Photo: baotintuc.vn)

Hanoi (VNA)
– Foreign experts and representatives from governmental agencies and local authorities gathered in Hanoi on June 29 to discuss experiences, effective strategies and interventions and policy recommendations for Vietnam in a conference to address child and early marriage.

The national conference on “Preventing and ending child and early marriage: Learning from promising strategies and good practices” was held by the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA), the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the Irish Aid.

Opening the event, Vice Chairman of CEMA Ha Hung said that underage marriage limits girls’ opportunities for education and leads to early pregnancy before their bodies have matured, severely affecting their mental and physical development.

Early marriage also put them at greater risk of domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence. Overall, it directly affects socio-economic development, resulting in a vicious cycle of poverty among ethnic minority groups, Hung noted, adding that it is behind the decline in quality of human resources and sustainable development of ethnic minority communities.

Shoko Ishikawa, Country Representative of UN Women in Vietnam, highlighted that the key to breaking the cycle of child and early marriage lies in empowering and investing in girls and women.

Every girl and woman at risk of or affected by child and early marriage must have access to quality services in education and training, legal and healthcare counselling, including for sexual and reproductive health, housing and others, the UN official stated.

This requires all state bodies to ensure that planning, budgeting, policymaking and monitoring reflects the needs of girls and boys, and that investment in girls’ empowerment is prioritised in all aspects and areas, she added.

In Vietnam, despite the Law on Marriage and Family setting the minimum legal age for marriage at 18 for women and 20 for men, 11 percent of women aged 20-49 years were married or in a union before the age of 18, most of whom come from disadvantaged regions and ethnic minority groups.

The first socio-economic survey of the country’s 53 ethnic minority groups conducted by the CEMA and the General Statistics Office in 2015 found that the prevalence of child marriage among these groups was 26.6 percent; some groups even reported rates of 50 – 70 percent.

During the conference, delegates discussed the main barriers to preventing and putting an end to early marriage and outlined opportunities for multi-sector cooperation in coping with the issue. They also looked into integrating child marriage interventions into Vietnam’s development projects and socio-economic programmes, especially those exclusively for ethnic minority areas.-VNA