News / Asia

Vietnam Activists Regroup After Failure of Same-Sex Marriage Bid

FILE - Newly married same-sex couple Tran Ngoc Diem Hang (R) and Le Thuy Linh (2nd R) share a moment during their public wedding as part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender event on a street in Hanoi, October 27, 2013.
FILE - Newly married same-sex couple Tran Ngoc Diem Hang (R) and Le Thuy Linh (2nd R) share a moment during their public wedding as part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender event on a street in Hanoi, October 27, 2013.
Marianne Brown

When Vietnam’s National Assembly passed revisions to the Marriage and Family Law in June, the country's gay and transgender rights activists were left disappointed.

But despite the hurdle, they are continuing to make their case.

In 2012, the Justice Ministry suggested including same-sex couples in its overhaul of the Marriage and Family Law. Many hoped this could clear the way for Vietnam to become a leader for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in the region. Some speculated that Vietnam would become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex weddings.

But as the debate progressed, these hopes gradually eroded.

When the law was finally passed last month, it removed an article that defined legal rights for cohabiting same-sex couples.

Lê Quang Bình, director of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE), a Vietnamese nonprofit organization that focuses on minority rights, called that a big disappointment.

“Vietnam fails to really protect rights to live with the one you love for LGBT in Vietnam," said Binh. "I think Vietnam could have done more than change the word from ‘ban’ to ‘not recognize’ same-sex marriage.” 

Many lawmakers also said they believed same-sex relationships should be regulated in the civil code rather than the Marriage and Family Law, and iSEE is now working with the Ministry of Justice to include the rights of transgender people to change their sex and include civil unions.

“For the civil code, it’s very much about legal consequence of same-sex couples, but in the law on marriage and family, it’s about love, relationships, [and] commitment," Binh said. "It’s more than just like the civil construct. It’s quite different in terms of legal meaning.”

Changing attitudes

Attitudes toward the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have shifted greatly over the last few years in Vietnam, a country where traditions of patriarchal family values prevail. Last year, the UN congratulated the country on “great progress made” toward eliminating the stigma and discrimination for homosexuals.

Still, an iSEE poll released earlier this year found that a majority of respondents do not support gay marriage.

The last two years have seen the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community become more confident and increasingly visible, with high profile activities across the country, from flash mob performances to music and photography shows.

Nguyen Thanh Tam, part of the team behind Viet Pride, the country’s first gay pride parade, which was held in Hanoi in 2012, said everyone should be entitled to the right to marry no matter what their sexual orientation and gender identity.

“But at the same time it is not the only important type of equality we want to achieve," she said. "We also want to have the attitude that is accepting towards sexual diversity and all other differences that people have."

The Women’s Union and members of the National Assembly say Vietnamese society is not ready for the changes advocated by the rights activists. But some question whether the law should follow public opinion or lead it.

“I think that in countries like America, the laws inform the attitude and if you change the law then everything will fall into place," Tam said. "But I don’t think that the context in Vietnam follows that direction. We should be raising awareness and changing the public attitude at the same time as changing the law and the two of them will support each other.”

Steps forward, steps back

Society is ready for such a change, said Pauline Oosterhoff, co-author of the recent study, ‘Negotiating Public and Legal Spaces: The Emergence of an LGBT Movement in Vietnam,’ which was conducted by the Institute of Development Studies, a UK-based global research and charity organization.

“You can see on the whole mobilization ... on the street people did get a lot of support. But I think the Women’s Union, for example, or some parts of the Women’s Union or some parts of the People’s Committee are not ready,” she said.

But, she added, this setback is also just one part of broader restrictions on civil society in general.

“I also think there is a general tightening up in Vietnam at the moment because of all the internal politics," said Oosterhoff. "I feel there’s broader restrictions for civil society groups at the moment. So it might also have been the wrong timing.”

She described the progress of civil society like the popular dance known as the cha cha cha — one step forward, a step to the left, the right, then backward and again forward.

In addition to the civil code, Binh said iSEE is working on a law on equality and anti-discrimination, which Vietnam has committed to passing in the next four years.

Meanwhile, activists are preparing for the third Viet Pride in August, which is expected to be the biggest yet.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jasmine from: South Korea
July 08, 2014 10:42 AM
Why isn't there a radio file?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid