ethnic minorities

1992 Constitution amendments: Results from consultation with seven socially vulnerable groups

“To respect diversity, freedom, and equality, toward citizens’ well-being and the country’s prosperity” is the common aspiration among seven vulnerable groups, as expressed at the conference that took place on Mar 9, 2013 in Hanoi to share the results of the Constitution amendments’ consultation process.

On Mar 9, 2013, seventeen civil society organizations and networks working for the rights of socially vulnerable groups organized a conference to share results from the 1992 Constitution’s amendments consultation process. The consulted groups included the disabled, the HIV positive, the LGBT community, women, youth, migrant workers, and ethnic minorities.

“To achieve the result shared at this conference, staff from seventeen civil society organizations participated in 42 consultation meetings at national and local levels in thirteen provinces throughout the country. The process showed that many people still did not have a clear understanding of either the Constitution or its impacts on their rights. It was crucial that these civil society organizations disseminated the Constitution draft and collected feedback from vulnerable groups,” observed Mr Le Quang Binh, Director of iSEE.

At the conference, representatives from each group put forward proposals to clauses most pertinent to their respective groups in the Constitution. All the proposals received lively feedback and discussion from the attendees, including leading scholars and experts working in the government, in universities, and in the development sector.

Dr. Dinh Xuan Thao, Director of the National Assembly’s Legislative Research Institute, acting as the bridge between civil society organizations and the Constitution Amendment Committee, remarked: “I applaud the practice of citizens’ consultation, especially from those that belong to vulnerable groups that civil society organizations work with. This effort has aided us tremendously in the process of amending the Constitution. We need data, clear scientific arguments, as well as real-life stories to help the National Assembly in the process of ratifying these proposals.”

Dr. Dinh Xuan Thao at the conference

Dr. Dinh Xuan Thao at the conference

The conference provided a venue for representatives from vulnerable groups to share stories from their own communities, proving why the Constitution needs to be fair and universal to protect the rights of all citizens in society.

Following are some stories and photos from the conference:

Mr Ma A Pho, a H’Mong ethnic representative from Lao Cai

Mr Ma A Pho, a H’Mong ethnic representative from Lao Cai, recounted: “There were occasions when the government expropriated land without clear documents and without communities consultation. Indemnification for the people was not sufficient either. There were also other occasions when outsiders with money bribed to obtain land use rights certificates and take the land ownership away from local people.”

Mr Luong The Huy, representing the ICS center’s LGBT community

Mr Luong The Huy, representing the ICS center’s LGBT community, showed a short video and photos about the discrimination and violence that a person that wants to undergo male-to-female surgery suffers because the Constitution does not protect the person’s rights. Luong The Huy asked: “At the moment the Constitution only mentions the male and female gender. Normally, when a male beats up a female, he’s breaking the law. When this male beats up a sex-change person just because of the sex-change, is it also a law violation?”

A gay’s parent shared her family story

A gay’s parent shared her family story: “When the Constitution does not protect the rights of homosexuals, my son is ostracized by society, and even by my own family. We as parents suffer discrimination too because we have a son who is gay. We shifted our burden on to our son; he was hospitalized once and even tried to commit suicide another time. I hope the Constitution will protect the rights of homosexuals, so that my son and my family do not have to hide and suffer anymore.”

Mr Vu Van Duc from Center for Non-Formal Education and Community Development (CENEV)

Mr Vu Van Duc from Center for Non-Formal Education and Community Development (CENEV) suggested: “Law-makers and government officials need to equip themselves with knowledge on sexuality and gender identity so that the Constitution can be changed for the better to protect rights of all social groups.”

Ms Nghiem Kim Hoa

Toward the end of the conference, Ms Nghiem Kim Hoa, expert on human rights of Center for Development and Integration (CDI) remarked: “The Constitution showcases our dreams and we all want to see ourselves in it. But we have to try to our best so that the Constitution is more than just our dreams and aspirations; it needs to pave way to a better future for the whole country.”

Currently the government has proposed to postpone the deadline for the 1992 Constitution amendment till Sep 2013. Civil society organizations will have time to prepare a more detail and effective proposal to contribute to a Constitution that protects the rights of all Vietnamese citizens, regardless of their socio-economic class, ethnicity, place of origin, ­age, gender, and health status.

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