Vietnamese girl loses 6 years of school due to mistaken gender on birth certificate

By Vo Thanh   September 23, 2017 | 08:19 pm PT
The problem is not being rectified until provincial leaders have stepped in - 17 years later.

A 17-year-old girl from the central province of Thua Thien-Hue has been denied entry to her local middle school for the past six years because the gender section on her birth certificate says she is male.

Tran Van Hai's parents, Tran Van Thanh and Vo Thi Be, both make a living from catching fish on Chuon Lagoon in Phu Vang District. When Hai was born, Thanh decided to ask a neighbor to help fill out her birth certificate as both he and his wife are illiterate.

However, their neighbor was also illiterate and asked yet another person for help. This led to the actual writer mistakenly marking the girl's gender as male and giving her the male middle name “Van”. 


The birth certificate stating Hai's name is Tran Van Hai and her gender as male. Photo by VnExpress/Vo Thanh.

In Vietnam, "Van" is a typical middle name for men while "Thi" is adopted frequently for women.

Unable to read, Thanh did not notice the mistake and simply brought the birth certificate home believing they had given their daughter the female middle name “Thi”.

Their family is poor, so Hai did not attend primary school and only went to classes taught by volunteer university students, which did not require her to show her birth certificate.

After finishing her primary education, Hai applied for a local middle school, but the application was rejected due to the gender conflict. Only then did the family realize the mistake that had been made 11 years earlier.

Thanh has since petitioning the commune's justice department to amend his daughter's birth certificate, but to no avail.

“They said we needed to do some kind of test which costs VND5-6 million [$220-264], but we just cannot afford it,” Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper quoted him as saying.

Stuck with a male name and gender, Hai had been unable to go to school or find work because people think the birth certificate is fake or borrowed from someone else, the newspaper reported.


Hai fills out a form for a new birth certificate with the correct name and gender. Photo by VnExpress/Le Toan

The case eventually grabbed local media attention, prompting the district's justice department to invite Thanh and Hai to come and fill out the necessary paperwork on Friday.

“I hope she can finally be legally recognized as a girl this time,” Thanh said. “For the last six years, she has been unable to go to school, and getting healthcare has also been difficult.”

Nguyen Van Hung, deputy director of Thua Thien-Hue's Justice Department, confirmed he had verified the case and instructed Phu Vang District's justice officials to issue a new birth certificate for Hai. She will finally be able to get a birth certificate with the name Tran Thi Hai and the correct gender without the need for an expensive DNA test.

“At the latest, Hai will get her new birth certificate on Monday afternoon,” Hung affirmed.

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