Vietnam Follows Taiwan Among Asia's Most Progressive on LGBT Rights

Vietnam Follows Taiwan Among Asia's Most Progressive on LGBT Rights
Photo Credit: Reuters/達誌影像

What you need to know

The past decade has seen so many policy changes in favor of LGBT rights in Vietnam.

Vietnam is once again making headlines abroad as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries on the Asian continent.

Just two weeks after Singapore’s heavily restricted pride celebration, Pink Dot 2017, Vietnam’s LGBT scene has returned to the spotlight for its inclusive nature and progressiveness.

While Singapore closed its pride celebration to foreigners, last year’s Viet Pride included U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius.

The past decade has seen so many policy changes in favor of LGBT rights in Vietnam – most notably the repeal of a heteronormative definition of marriage – that NBC News said the country is “now more progressive than America.” In 2015, the Southeast Asian nation officially abolished regulations that prevent "marriage between people of the same sex."

At the time, Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia branch, told Bangkok Post, "No other country in Southeast Asia has taken as big a step toward accepting same-sex marriage as Vietnam."

Near the end of the same year, Vietnam also passed a law allowing trans individuals receive gender reassignment surgery and to register under their preferred gender. Though the law still poses challenges for trans people, Human Rights Watch called it a “small, but significant step toward the recognition of transgender people’s rights.”

Last month, an LGBT-friendly medical care facility opened in Saigon, offering counseling, STI tests, HIV treatment and other services for the queer and trans community.

Viet Pride has been celebrated annually across the country since 2012, and it seems likely that Vietnamese activists’ examples have encouraged inclusivity elsewhere in the region.

In May of this year, Taiwan passed legislation to legalize gay marriage. In an interview with NBC, Tran Khac Tung, director of the LGBT organization ICS, says, “A few years ago, when we were advocating for same-sex marriage in Vietnam, one of the arguments against it was [that] it is not an Asian value,” as there were no other Asian countries legalizing same-sex marriage at the time. “Well, now this does not stand anymore.”

Forbes speculated that Thailand and Cambodia were the two countries most likely to follow suit.

But not all of the continent’s LGBT communities are making headway. Indonesia’s nation-wide crackdown and the Philippines' failure to pass an anti-discrimination bill are proof that homophobic and transphobic attitudes still flourish throughout certain parts of Asia.

Saigoneer is an English-language digital platform covering urban development, history, food, culture and the arts in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and throughout Vietnam. The News Lens has been authorized to republish this article. The original can be found here.

Editor: Olivia Yang