The Revised Marriage And Family Law Of 2000
On June 9, 2000, the Vietnamese National Assembly adopted the Marriage and Family Law of 2000. Consisting of thirteen chapters and 110 articles, the law revised the marriage and family code of 1986. Striving to preserve traditional values within progressive reforms, the new law recognized that a woman could have a child without a husband, forbade marriage between a foreigner and Vietnamese for mercenary reasons, and declared wife-beating and child abuse illegal. Prior to 2000, the law on these categories was either nonexistent or vague.
Article II addressed the emerging phenomenon of cohabitation. Under the 1986 statue, such living arrangements were illegal. However, the 2000 reforms stipulated that although cohabitation between unmarried couples was no longer considered a criminal act, neither would such arrangements be recognized as equal to marriage between a husband and wife. Other provisions of Article II clarify divorce procedures, encourage gender equity within marriage (including treatment of sons and daughters), and emphasize the equal treatment of children born within and out of wedlock.
Other additions to Vietnamese marriage and family law contained in the 2000 reforms recognize the existence and importance of extended families. Article V clarifies relations between grandparents, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, and other family members. Chapter VI addresses support obligations, and Chapter IX spells out the responsibilities of guardianship within intergenerational households.
Clearly, Vietnam has displayed a willingness to adapt its family policies to a rapidly changing social landscape. Today, with a population of more than 70 million people, half of whom were born after 1975 when the war with the United States ended, Vietnam serves as a fascinating case study of a developing nation struggling with modernization. After being subjected to centuries of colonial rule, thirty years of civil conflict, two major wars against modern Western powers, and a complicated reunification process that began in the mid-1970s, a major law was passed in 1986 that produced a deliberate shift from state-sponsored socialism to free-market capitalism. Clearly, the nation's families were affected by these developments, and specific marriage and family laws were adopted to reflect these historical influences. It is likely that more reforms will follow.
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STEVEN K. WISENSALE