As a communist society Vietnam is expected to have all people living with equal treatment, however the situation is much more complex as social classes and roles tend to develop within communities under this type of government. We see the mistreatment of women due to the unequal set of opportunities presented to both genders before and after the Vietnam War. However, during the war, women were able to prove themselves just as valuable as men, becoming active participants in the war and aiding in the knowledge of either side.
Before the war there were already several organizations promoting the equality of women in Vietnam. The most prominent being The Women’s Union of Vietnam. This was established in 1930 and advocated for the independence and development of their society. Their priority was to aid in the mobilization of women to join in the anti-feudalism and anti-imperialism movements against the communist party.
One of their successes was being able gain an extended paid maternity leave for those women who had worked with the government. Despite their best efforts, women were still oppressed. As a Vietnamese women in urban areas, you are taught that it is your essential duty to take care of the household. It is not as different in rural areas as the women there may have an increased responsibility to tend to the agriculture.
After marriage the woman will likely carry on being the housewife and mother and expected to be dependent on the income of her husband, often having to care for generations of the family. Although many women did lead this life, others in the rural areas had to assume the positions many Americans at the time would consider the man’s job. Those in the farming or village class were to do the man’s labor often seen and depicted long black pants, a loose blouse, and the signature straw hat. They could be found anywhere from rice fields to market places.
Although many opportunities available to women would fluctuate depending on the region, there was a certain standard to uphold. For example a woman could not become a fisherman at sea, however it would have been culturally acceptable for her to become a fishmonger of peddler. She could not catch fish herself but she would often handle and deal them. Although many women lacked the feminist conscious and men resisted the reforms, ultimately Vietnamese women would have a chance to prove themselves during the war.
At the time of the Vietnam War women became active participants and became immortalized through stories passed on from generations. A story that embodies this sentiment is that of the Women Warriors by David E. Jones where he spoke of the markswomen that would injure their targets with a single bullet and proceed to beat them with the butts of their rifles in order to save bullets. We see these ideas of women being able to complete rather difficult tasks in Northern Vietnam as they had one of the largest female armies of the time.
Although during the war women in America became exponentially involved with serving their country, it did not reach to the extent of women in vietnam. America had their female participants making up most of the medical team as nurses, while Vietnam provided their female activists with jobs such as village patrol guards, intelligence agents, propagandists, and military recruiters. In Southern Vietnam, they had women who often would enlist to volunteer with the Women’s Armed Force Corps, an organization associated with the United States of America.
During the Vietnam War with the split of the Northern and Southern areas, the North began to push for reforms that would enhance social equity, and could have also brought about improvements to women rights. In 1960 the Marriage and Family Law was passed, which banned forced and child marriages, domestic abuse, and concubinage. This new regime encouraged women to seek responsibilities outside the household. The Communist government of North Vietnam wanted to gain popularity among the people and believed their support in the Women’s union would aid in the process.
Their goal was to encourage the mobilization of women as their success would prove to be the catalyst of favor towards the communist government’s new laws. The Women’s Union gave the females of Vietnam 3 specific goals: encouraging males to enlist in the army, taking over all household duties, and acquiring work in the industrial and agricultural fields. Although women’s role shined prominently during the Vietnam War, the victory resulted in an exponential decrease in female involvement.
After the fall of Saigon, later renamed Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Communist government began to implement regulations that moved urban Vietnamese to economic zones where they were forced into manual labor, while many associates of the South Vietnamese regime were placed in education camps. At this time Vietnam was going through a major political reconstruction shifting from a socialist government to a democratic one, which ultimately resulted in a renovation policy called Doi Moi. Under this policy they were able to apply new reforms that merged the concepts of both the socialist ideals and a free market. Doi Moi policy lead to the advancement of human rights in Vietnam.
Aiding in the construction of the constitution which allowed for people to travel freely, along with several other liberties such as: free speech, free press, and free demonstration. This led to less people attempting to escape the regime by boat which also includes women who risked their lives for freedom only to be raped by pirates, left at refugee camps, and suffering from mental health. However although the Doi Moi policy was able to improve some aspects of human rights, many could argue that the reforms implemented created a new set of problems for women as they were expected to work harder with longer hours yet these job environments still kept a strict outlook on women and often degraded them over a minor mistake.