Activists call for movement on transgender rights law in Vietnam

By AFP   November 12, 2018 | 08:20 am GMT+7
Activists call for movement on transgender rights law in Vietnam
Participants ride bicycles during a gay pride parade to advocate gay rights in Hanoi on November 11, 2018. Photo by Vietnam News Agency/Thanh Dat

As more than 1,000 Vietnamese joined Hanoi's Gay Pride parade Sunday to support the LGBT community, activists called on the government to make a long-tabled transgender rights law a reality.

Vietnam in 2015 changed its civil code to allow transgender people who have undergone surgery to be registered and recognised by their new gender.

But a long-promised trans law that would cover a wide range of issues has stalled and activists are pushing for more rights and services, including making gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy legally available to its citizens, and also allowing gender changes without surgery.

The community says without such a law in place they still face discrimination and have trouble accessing banking and other public services.

"There is a high demand for a change in gender recognition in Vietnam but the demand cannot be met now. We don't know how and when things will be more realistic," Vuong Kha Phong, secretary of Hanoi Pride 2018's organising committee, told AFP.

"The LGBT community is waiting in limbo as they have rights in theory but the rights cannot be realized," he said. "We want to tell (the authorities) to please make or realise the laws so that we can live our lives according to our gender identity."

People in the parade Sunday were all smiles as they rode colourful bicycles and waved rainbow flags, marching down Hanoi's tree-lined streets. Beaming bystanders waved at drag queens dressed in floor-length gowns, who were ferried in rickshaws with the parade.

But a woman told AFP that having a body fit her identity of a man would be a "dream."

"I don't have much money to go abroad (to do the surgery). I don't know how long I have to wait to realise my dream," said the woman, who identified herself as Lan.

Another sticking point for participants is the lack of a law allowing for same-sex marriage.

While lesbian and gay couples are no longer fined for symbolic unions, they were still unable to get a legal marriage certificate, rendering them ineligible for rights like joint property ownership or adoption opportunities.

"We want to be treated equally by being allowed to get married as freely as others," said Nguyen Huong Ly, 20, who was attending the parade with her girlfriend.

Hoang Giang Son, an LGBT coordinator at iSEE, Vietnam's Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment, said activists have seen a big shift in public awareness towards LGBT rights, but same-sex marriage is still out of reach.

"I really hope same sex legalisation can happen in 2020. We will do more to help (authorities) change their minds," he told AFP.

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