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Concern Over Outside Influences: The 1994 Decree

The Vietnamese Ministry of Justice issued a special decree in 1994 that had two primary objectives: One, to clarify those sections of the existing codes that were confusing, and two, to focus on any potentially harmful influence foreigners may have on Vietnam's families. The latter point is not surprising in light of the recent growth in international trade and the corresponding increase in foreign visitors. The decree, issued on September 30, 1994, consists of seven chapters and forty-one articles.

Chapters I through III of the Decree pertain primarily to the regulation of marriage, with specific regulations concerning marriages between Vietnamese and foreigners. In short, any marriage on Vietnamese soil falls under Vietnam's marriage codes. Marriages performed outside the country must be approved by the Chairman of Vietnam's provincial People's Committee if one or both parties wish to reside in the country.

Perhaps even more indicative of Vietnam's concern about foreign influences is the government's effort to control foreigners' access to the nation's children. In 1992 the Council of Ministers issued temporary regulations on the adoption of Vietnamese children by foreigners, limiting such adoptions to Vietnamese children who are orphaned, abandoned, disabled, and are being institutionally cared for by government authorities (Council of Ministers 1992). Just two years later these temporary regulations were made permanent and expanded to include rules that restricted the teaching or tutorship of Vietnamese children by foreigners (The 1994 Decree on Marriage and the Family). In short, by actions set forth in the 1994 Decree, foreigners will be restricted by law in their attempt to either adopt or tutor Vietnamese children.

The 1994 Decree on Marriage and the Family clearly illustrates Vietnam's concern about the potential negative impact of outside influences on its families. On one hand, policy makers have pushed hard to modernize, and thus become more competitive in global markets. On the other hand, they are concerned that the traditional Vietnamese family, what Ho Chi Minh referred to as the "cell of society," will become endangered. According to this argument, a weak family structure will produce a weak nation. Thus, it is not surprising that Vietnam, in looking toward the future, is constantly evaluating its status with respect to family policy and putting in place new laws designed to protect families and stabilize society. It was within that context that additional revisions of national marriage and family laws were adopted in 2000.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsVietnam - Gender Equity And The Marriage And Family Law Of 1959, The 1986 Law On Marriage, Parental Responsibility, And Divorce