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Vietnam Releases Code of Conduct Regarding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Vietnam has taken the first step to address its weak sexual harassment laws with the release of its first-ever code of conduct on Monday.

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Under the document, written by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, “Winking, touching, or commenting on a co-worker’s clothes can be all considered sexual harassment,” according to Thanh Nien.

Though a number of laws regarding the issue have been ratified in the past, they have proven ineffective at best. A 2013 effort by the Labor Ministry sought to enact fines of VND50-75 million (US$2,290-3,436) for acts sexual harassment, but the proposal was never approved due to “lack of definition of the violations.”

“…relevant regulations are too general without pointing out what specific acts can be considered sexual harassment. This has led to difficulties in the prevention and handling of violations,” said Deputy Minister Pham Minh Huan. “We encourage companies to incorporate the code into their internal regulations. It would create a healthy and safe working environment and thus bring higher productivity.”

A 2013 report complied by the International Labor Organization (ILO) found that sexual harassment to be common at Vietnamese workplaces.

“According to the report, more than 78 percent of victims of sexual harassment are women and it mostly happens to women between 18-30 years old. However, the culture and fear of losing jobs prevent many of them from reporting the cases,” wrote Thanh Nien.

Ha Dinh Bon, director of the Labor Ministry’s Legal Department, said relevant agencies will look to strengthen such measures in 2017.

Sexual harassment isn’t limited to the workplace in Vietnam.

A December survey by three organizations (ActionAid, Research Centre for Gender, and Family and Environment in Development and Plan) found that 87% of Vietnamese women say they have been victims of sexual harassment in public places

40% of the respondents said they have witnessed women being harassed and alarmingly, 65% percent of men said they do not interfere when they witnessed said harassment.

Hanoi has even explored gender-specific busses in an attempt to reduce such cases.

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