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

    Video Rubio Looks to Surge in New Hampshire

    Republican presidential candidate has moved into second place in several recent surveys and appears to be gaining ground on longtime frontrunner Donald Trump

    UN Calls for Global Ban on Female Genital Mutilation

    Recent UNICEF report finds at least 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries

    UN Pilots New Peace Approach in CAR

    Approach launched in northern town of Kaga Bandoro, where former combatants of mainly Muslim Seleka armed group and Christian and animist anti-Balaka movement are being paid to do community work

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.