Vietnam's judicial system fails to clearly define or set aside punishment for gender violence, due to which, gender violence victims - mostly women - encounter difficulty in accessing legal services.

This was stated by experts during a two-day workshop that began in Hanoi on April 1. The workshop discussed gender stereotyping in the justice system and women's access to justice in cases involving gender-based violence. It also reviewed penal procedural codes, discussions on which attracted representatives from the Ministry of Justice, United Nations (UN) Women, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA).

CSAGA Director Nguyen Van Anh said the latest national research on domestic violence, which was conducted in 2010, showed that 87 percent of the women taking part in the research had not sought support from authorities or any other public services. As many as 66 percent of domestic violence victims did not feel satisfied with the mediation carried out in the community, and more than 70 percent of the mediation cases did not achieve expected results.

Anh said the process for accessing legal support was so complicated.

"Moreover, present norms regulated that if domestic violence victims wanted to receive legal support, they must be poor women, old women, disabled women or women from ethnic minorities, thus the number of women receiving legal support was limited," she said.

The law directs that couples in disagreement must be supervised after the mediation, but in fact, no inspectors were assigned to do the job, she added.

For instance, a woman had chosen to remain anonymous in Hanoi's Ung Hoa district after recently being bitten by her husband. Even though the Chairman of the Commune's People's Committee and Head of the Commune's police had come to her rescue, she was advised to keep calm and resolve the case herself. Returning home, she was bitten once more by her husband for dishonouring him before the local authorities, Anh said.

Nguyen Thi Kim Thoa, Director of the Department of Criminal and Administrative Law under the Ministry of Justice, said the Laws on Labour, Domestic Violence Prevention and Control, Human Trafficking Prevention and Control and the Penal Code should be revised and harmonised and the necessary amended regulations should be added.

Information about shelters for domestic violence victims should be announced in public. Workers at the shelters should be imparted knowledge about the relevant laws so that they can give proper guidance to the victims.

Anh added that legal support teams, with participation of students and teachers from law universities and schools, should also be set up.

"Compulsory alcohol detoxification for people indulging in domestic violence should be included in legal regulations as reality has proved that alcohol makes domestic violence more serious," she said.-VNA