Well-behaving prisoners in Vietnam will be allowed to meet with their spouse in a private cell, with female inmates required to use contraception, according to a recent draft circulation by the country’s Ministry of Public Security.
The Ministry on October 20 published a draft of its new circulation regulating prisoners’ rights to be visited; send and receive mails; receive money and items; and make phone calls with family members and relatives.
One of the circulation’s articles stipulated inmates’ rights to spend private time with their spouse, while female prisoners are required to make a commitment not to get pregnant during the act.
According to Col. Tran Huu Thong, a superintendent at Thu Duc Prison in southern Vietnam’s Binh Thuan Province, the allowance of inmates to meet with their spouse in private has been regulated in a previous circulation issued in 2011 by the Ministry.
Only rule-abiding inmates are granted this privilege, and the visiting husband or wife must be able to present their marriage certificate or other confirmation papers issued by local authorities in their neighborhood, Thong said.
“Female inmates are required to use contraceptive methods and make a written commitment not to get pregnant… This is a humane regulation that allows husbands and wives to spend time with each other [even in prison],” Thong said.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese lawyer Le Trung Phat suggested that prisons took the initiative to provide contraception for female inmates in order to minimize the chance of jail-time pregnancy, which would affect both the mother’s service in prison and the child’s well-being.
“Currently, prisons rely on inmates’ self-consciousness in employing contraceptive methods. However, not all prisoners are aware of this issue,” he lawyer explained.
1. Gifting coffins to the living is an act of respect for Vietnam’s Katu ethnics
Getting sent a coffin might be viewed as a life threat in most cultures, but for the Katu minority in central Vietnam, it is the ultimate sign of respect.
The Katu people in Vietnam are an ethnic minority group of over 60,000 who live mainly in the central provinces of Thua Thien – Hue and Quang Nam, according to the country’s 2009 census.
Hand-crafted coffins play an important role in Katu traditions, and are viewed as a valuable gift of respect only given to close relatives.
“Last year, my brother-in-law gave my father and grandmother a coffin each. How nice of him,” Alang Hanh, a Katu man from Tay Giang District, Quang Nam Province said with enthusiasm about the unique tradition of his people.
Hanh’s grandmother was already old and weak when she was gifted with the coffin, so it was not long after that the gift was put into good use, Hanh added.
According to Hanh, Katu people view coffins as a way of paying respect and performing filial duty to one’s parents and grandparents, since it is the one item that everybody needs in their life eventually.
Coffins are even given as a wedding gift to marrying couples due to their value, Hanh said.
Katu coffins are carved from a single large tree trunk into the shape of a two-headed water buffalo, with added ingenious decorative patterns that serve different spiritual meanings.
The trees used for carving coffins must be of durable species such as Siamese rosewood, yellow-flame, or fokienia, and the carving process can take months to finish.
The rarer the wood and more delicate the carving techniques used in making a coffin, the more it is valued by the recipient.
Due to the lengthy process involved in crafting a coffin, many Katu families keep spare coffins in their houses to be used should an emergency emerges.
However, the Katu people are willing to donate their coffins to poorer families who cannot afford a coffin to bury their loved ones, chairman of Tay Giang District People’s Committee Arat Blui said.