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
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.
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.
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.
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
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./.