Nguyen Thi Van Anh, director of the Centre for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents, discusses gay rights in an interview with Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper.
What do you think about homosexuality?
Some people discriminate against and avoid speaking to or meeting with gay men and women. They think that these people are leading unethical lives, but this is not true. Homosexuality is not a disease or something that can be cured. It's simply indicative of a sexual preference that is not shared by the majority of society. People need to understand that these men and women are born with these preferences; they don't choose to be gay or lesbian just to be eccentric or to go against the grain.
It's not fair for them to be treated differently; it is their right to live the life that they want to live. Such sexual tendencies are not to the detriment of society and should not be condemned. It is the right of every individual to be who they want to be, and nobody else should be the judge of those rights.
In Vietnamese society, sadly not everyone understands this stance. What is your view on this?
Even advanced countries like the United States strongly discriminated against homosexuality 20-25 years ago. However, such thinking has largely become a thing of the past. At present, I think that most people in the west don't believe that homosexuality is a moral issue. Many nations have even legalised homosexual relationships.
In Viet Nam, discrimination against homosexuals still exists, but it has not yet gone to extremes, like beating or killing anyone, like in some other countries in the past. The people here simply disregard homosexual people and speak ill of them, and I believe this is mostly because of a lack of education and awareness on these issues.
What is the biggest difficulty that homosexuals have to overcome?
The majority of homosexual people in previous generations did not hold a correct understanding about homosexuality. Perhaps they thought or knew that they were different from other men and women, but still they did not want to change.
Young people today hold a more positive attitude towards different lifestyle choices, thanks to different information channels. But even so, it's extremely difficult to make everyone else understand them.
Should all homosexual people come out and speak up?
Having worked in research and consultancy, our centre has never ever encouraged anyone to come out or stay closeted. That decision should be left up to the individual. While many parents are willing to treat their children with tolerance, others have stayed away from and disgraced even their own children. The most important thing is to help them love and to be proud of what life has brought for them. The fight against discrimination is just one of the many other fights to protect people living with HIV/AIDS—homosexual and otherwise. No kind of discrimination should stand in the way of someone living their life. —VNS