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“The only thing necessary for these diseases to the triumph is for good people and governments to do nothing.”


Sexual behavior among Vietnamese married women
By Vu Song Ha(26.8.03)
The Harmony of family and the silence of women: sexual behavior among
married women in two northern rural areas in Vietnam 
By Vu Song Ha
While sex is love, excitement, and joy, in Vietnam existing studies also
portray sexual activity as a source of weakness, fatigue and even an
extra burden for women. They bear high rates of abortion and
reproductive tract infections. Additionally, since the economic reform
or renovation (doi moi) started in 1986, Vietnam's economy has improved,
but the country has been challenged by a number of social changes such
as internal migration, drugs and prostitution. Vietnamese people are
threatened by STDs/AIDS. 


In recent years, some domestic and foreign researchers have been
interested in studying sexuality in Vietnam. However, there is still a
lack of basic information and understanding on concepts, attitude and
behavior regarding sex and sexuality. This study will attempt to
understand married women's attitudes and behaviors in sexuality and the
communication between husband and wife. Cultural and social factors
influencing sexual behaviors of rural married women are also explored.
This study is conducted in two Northern rural communes. The study
employs qualitative methods with two key tools: focus group discussion
and in-depth interview are applied in this study. Twenty-five women and
six men were interviewed; and 4 focus group discussions were conducted.
All interviews and focus group discussions were recorded and
transcribed. The data are analyzed through themes coding and managed by
the specific software for qualitative data analysis AnSWRVB.
Women in the two communes believe that men are initiators in sexual
relations, while women are passive. Women almost never initiate sex.
Although some women believe that they have the right to say no to their
husbands, other don't think they have this right. Women often comply
with the sexual demands of their husbands when they are not interested;
some women never dare to refuse sex. Condoms are not used widely among
respondents. Both men and women accept condoms as an alternative
contraceptive but not a method of STDs, HIV/AIDS prevention. The
communication about sex and sexuality between husband and wife still
However, women are not passive, they work very hard to keep their
happiness. They speak gently to postpone sex. They pretend not to know
about their husbands' affair or use sweet words to persuade their
husbands come back home. Each woman at a different level of empowerment
uses their agency to achieve what they deserve: harmony in the family.
These women carry a heavy burden on their shoulders, but many of them
feel comfortable and happy with their values and lives.


In this context, intervention programs should be careful not to add more
work to women's already heavy load. First, public health programs need
to pay attention to the balance of power in gender relations and women
need to be empowered. Second, these interventions need to be appropriate
to cultural and social context in which these women operate so that they
do not have to suffer too much with these changes.
Vu Song Ha currently works at Consultation of Investment in Health
Promotion. For the full report, you can email her at
Taken from JVnet at 26th August 2003.