Wearing helmet is compulsory for all motorcycle drivers in Vietnam, but following such a rule is not quite an easy task for women of some ethnic minority groups, who wear high buns as a centuries-old custom.
The question whether there should be a helmet exclusively designed for such Vietnamese ethnic women has sparked off a heated debate between the National Traffic Safety Committee and the Ministry of Science and Technology, as they met at a conference on the issue in Hanoi on Thursday.
The traffic safety committee, the event’s organizer, believes there should be a special kind of protective headgear for women whose hair buns can be as high as 10 centimeters, whereas the ministry insisted it is not necessary to do so.
For women of the Black Thai ethnic group, the high bun indicates that they are married, and removing the hairstyle is considered an unfaithful act against their spouses.
Vietnamese ethnic women do not want to breach traffic law, but at the same time do not want to go against their custom and tradition, so they will just wear the helmet atop of their high buns, which makes the protective headgear easily fall off.
In some cases, ethnic women will not wear the helmet for the sake of convenience.
“The current ordinary crash helmets just fail to protect these women,” Khuat Viet Hung, deputy chairman of the National Traffic Safety Committee, said.
“Just because ethnic women account for only one percent of those required to wear helmets does not mean we do not need to pay attention to them.”
Two prototypes of helmets particularly designed for ethnic women were also put on the table for discussion at the conference.
One of them is designed with a higher form than the ordinary helmets, and the other with a hole atop so that the high buns of the wearers can get through.
The representative of a helmet maker said the first type weighs nearly 1kg, which will make the wearers uncomfortable, while the other can little protect the wearers.
What is most important, according to industry insiders, is neither of the models meets current helmet design regulations.
Lai Huy Doanh, who represents the agency that oversees product quality under the Ministry of Science and Technology, said it is unnecessary to design a particular type of helmet for ethnic women, as there are not many of them.
“We will have to amend many current laws, regulations and standards doing so,” he said.
Giang Pao Sinh, head of the traffic police unit of the northern province of Dien Bien, where many Thai ethnic people live, suggested that the ethnic women be consulted before any plan is conducted.
“It would be useless if we make the helmets but the women still refuse to wear them,” he said.
Photo: National Traffic Safety Committee
Despite the conflicting opinions on the need of designing helmets exclusively for ethnic female wearers, the National Traffic Safety Committee insisted more studies follow up on the issue.
“The committee will ask the science ministry to consider amending the helmet design standards and regulations for this special kind of wearers,” Hung, the deputy chairman, said.
“Once these amendments are completed, we will also ask the ministry to produce the prototype of the special helmet.”