The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
TCB and CMM were principal investigators of the study and participated in all research stages and activities. MWR, MLW, RPB provided substantial contributions to the theoretical conceptualization, study design, interview guide and questions, data interpretation, and revising the manuscript critically for important intellectual content. LTT and HTN played key roles in conducting interviews, transcribing, coding, and preliminarily analyzing data. TNL provide intellectual and cultural advice, significantly participated in piloting interview questions in Vietnamese, sampling and recruiting techniques, and interpreting results. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
Increasing evidence indicates that gender equity has a significant influence on women’s health; yet few culturally specific indicators of gender relations exist which are applicable to health. This study explores dimensions of gender relations perceived by female undergraduate students in southern Vietnamese culture, and qualitatively examines how this perceived gender inequity may influence females’ sexual or reproductive health.
Sixty-two female undergraduate students from two universities participated in eight focus group discussions to talk about their perspectives regarding national and local gender equity issues.
Although overall gender gaps in the Mekong Delta were perceived to have decreased in comparison to previous times, several specific dimensions of gender relations were emergent in students’ discussions. Perceived dimensions of gender relations were comparable to theoretical structures of the Theory of Gender and Power, and to findings from several reports describing the actual inferiority of women. Allocation of housework and social paid work represented salient dimensions of labor. The most salient dimension of power related to women in positions of authority. Salient dimensions of cathexis related to son preference, women’s vulnerability to blame or criticism, and double standards or expectations. Findings also suggested that gender inequity potentially influenced women’s sexual and reproductive health as regards to health information seeking, gynecological care access, contraceptive use responsibility, and child bearing.
Further investigations of the associations between gender relations and different women’s sexual and reproductive health outcomes in this region are needed. It may be important to address gender relations as a distal determinant in health interventions in order to promote gender-based equity in sexual and reproductive health.