|People at the HCM City Labour Cultural Palace during a recent gay rights campaign that was organised in most big cities around the country. — Photo Courtesy of ICS
HCM CITY (VNS)— Viet Nam has made great progress in recent months towards eliminating stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the United Nations has said.
In a press release to the media to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, May 17, the world body praised the Government and people for the achievement.
It quoted Pratibha Mehta, the UN's Resident Coordinator in Viet Nam, as saying: "The UN is very encouraged to see Viet Nam's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community engaging in stronger, more constructive dialogue with the Government as well as the wider public.
"This is vital in order to be better understood, to reduce social prejudice and stigma based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and to contribute to development of relevant legislation to ensure the rights of the community are protected."
Same-sex relations continue to be criminalised in 78 out of 193 countries, with seven slapping the death penalty, according to the UN.
The UN pledged support for Viet Nam's efforts to ensure that all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are removed to enable everyone to enjoy their human rights.
Also yesterday UNAIDS, HCM City's Association of HIV/AIDS Prevention, and the LGBT community in the city organised the first ever seminar demanding better rights for the community, especially access to healthcare services.
At the event, members of the city People's Council, Women's Union, Ministry of Health, and families of LGBT people expressed understanding for the community.
Several mothers with gay children talked about their shock at knowing their children were homosexual and then becoming sympathetic towards them.
One recalled giving her son a knife and asking him to kill her because she could not bear the thought of an only son being gay. "He hugged and promised me he would make me proud of him for the rest of my life."
Now she loves and completely accepts her son, an outstanding student at the HCM City Pedagogy University.
Nguyen Thi Hong Hanh, whose son is gay, said discrimination against LGBT people, who too contribute much to society, is unfair.
"If I don't admit the sexual orientation and gender identity of my own son, how will society do it?" she asked.
Huynh Minh Thao, communication manager at Information Connecting and Sharing, an organisation that has contributed much to the gay rights campaign in Viet Nam, said he recognised the change for the better in the conception about LGBT people compared to a few years ago.
"It is not easy to change mind of a person. Viet Nam is leading Asian countries in the development of homosexual people's rights."
When asked by surprised foreign journalists, he told them that being generous and kind-hearted is the way of the Vietnamese.
The local media also contributed to the change, carrying many stories about discrimination against homosexuals and gradually creating a change in the thinking of authorities, he said.
The change that has occurred in Viet Nam follows an international trend, he said.
He thought the laws would soon be changed to recognise same-sex marriages, but said more important would be the attitude of society towards LGBT people.
"It is our target," he said, "Laws allowing same-sex marriages are not enough." — VNS