Thang Long - Hanoi

Homosexuals face violence in their own homes
18/08/2011 | 12:30:00
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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT) are still discriminated against in Vietnam and are often exposed to violence from their parents and family members, sociologists warned at a recent conference.

Hoang Tu Anh, founder of the Hanoi-based Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP), said that prejudice relating to gender and sexuality constituted a grave violation of human rights.

Reports of physical violence included beating, binding, and starving, while mental tortures ranged from private groundings to public insults. Many gay and lesbian young people are still forced to marry members of the opposite sex.

One 21-year-old gay man from Hanoi responded to the CCIHP survey: "I was hurt most when my father told me that if he had known his son would be gay, he would have asked my mother to abort the baby."

At the conference, Anh lamented that many parents still thought homosexuality was unnatural, blaming it on mental illness or the influence of "bad" friends.

In certain cases, Anh added, LGBT individuals were forbidden to communicate with their partners and friends and were hospitalised for medical treatment.

Le Quang Binh, head of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment, said that while the World Hospital Organisation and numerous countries, including the United States and China, have removed homosexuality from the list of mental illness, and nations such as the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa and Canada have legally recognised same-sex marriage, the issue was "new" to Vietnam.

Binh explained how difficult the coming-out process was for LGBT teenagers, noting that 77 percent of parents polled expressed disappointment when they were told by their children.

Binh's institute conducted a survey in 2009 that included over 3,200 LGBT residents Hanoi and HCM City, which found that over 66 percent of gay male respondents kept their sexual orientation a secret, while only 2.5 percent publicly embraced it.

About 47 percent said they did not come out because they were afraid of discrimination, and nearly 40 percent said they kept their sexual orientation a secret because they did not think their families would accept the truth.

Binh said that parents normally reacted to the news in four sequential stages: first they were shocked, then they sought a "solution", they learned more about homosexuality, and finally they accepted the idea.

"Parents traditionally expect children to maintain the continuity of a family line, and they do not want their kids to be exposed to social discrimination or high risk of disease," he said.

However, Binh said that as parents learned more about the issue, they would begin to understand their children better.

Tu Anh from CCIHP said violence against LGBT individuals was either considered domestic violence or gender-related violence, since LGBT people have not been identified as eligible group by Vietnam's Domestic Violence Prevention and Control.

Same-sex marriage is not recognised in the Law on Marriage and Family.

If the parents of a gay man, for example, forced him to marry a woman, other people could see it as the family's business and consider legal intervention unnecessary, when in fact the marriage would be tragic for both parties, Anh said.

Nguyen Van Anh, chairwoman of the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender - Family, Women and Adolescents ( CSAGA) said that discrimination against LGBT people was caused by a lack of understanding, but the support structure of consulting and education to create that understanding had not yet been developed in Vietnam. No educational institutions in the nation currently offer training courses for LGBT consultants or researchers.

Hoa Huu Van, deputy head of the Department for Family within the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that in the last five years, the media had reported stories about homosexual people in Vietnam that were previously taboo.

However, the idea that homosexuality was "unnatural" still must be reversed, LGBT advocacy was needed, and rights for same-sex marriages must be secured, he said.

"It will take time to develop clear and detailed policies for homosexuality in Vietnam," he said./.
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