LGBT rights in Vietnam

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Vietnam in its region.svg
Gender identityTransgender people cannot access sex reassignment surgery and cannot change legal gender after surgery (Bill pending to allow gender changes)
MilitaryLesbian, gay and bisexual people may serve openly
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo recognition of same-sex unions

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people in Vietnam may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal and are believed to never have been criminalized in Vietnamese history.[1] However, same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Although homosexuality is generally considered taboo, awareness surrounding LGBT rights has risen during the 21st century. Reports of discrimination against LGBT people are not uncommon, however, with about 20% of LGBT people reported being beaten by family members when coming out.[2]

Vietnam's first gay pride parade peacefully took place in Hanoi on August 5, 2012. In 2017, pride parades were held in around 35 other cities and provinces.[3][4]

In November 2016, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Israel, Thailand, East Timor, Nepal, Georgia, Turkey, Sri Lanka and Mongolia were the only Asian countries in the United Nations to vote in favor of the appointment of an independent expert to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by the LGBT community and to find ways to properly protect them.[5] The creation of the new post was being protested against by the African Group.[6]


While the majority of Vietnamese historical accounts up to the modern era are concerned with the patriarchal ideas of Confucianism, the presence of homosexual activities in Vietnam has been recorded for a long time. A supplemental text to the 15th-century Code of Hồng Đức mentioned the trial of two women who lived in the same house and had sex with one another while the husband of one of the women was away.[7] Throughout this trial, the women were charged with no more than adultery and there was no comment of their same-sex sexual act. This absence of criticism agrees with the belief of many historians that same-sex sexual acts have never been criminalized in Vietnam, not even in the current Criminal Code.[8] The Penal Code indicates that the age of consent is 16 years regardless of gender or sexual orientation.[9][10]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

In July 2012, the Minister of Justice announced that the Government of Vietnam had started a consultation on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.[11] In June 2013, the Ministry of Justice submitted a bill that would remove the ban on same-sex marriage from the Law on Marriage and Family (Vietnamese: Luật Hôn nhân và Gia đình) and provide some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples.[12] The National Assembly debated it in October 2013.[13]

On 24 September 2013, the Government issued a decree abolishing the fines on same-sex marriages.[14][15] The decree took effect on 11 November 2013.[16][17][18]

In November 2013, the National Assembly approved a new constitution. Article 64 was repealed and replaced by article 36 which reads: "Men and women have the right to marry and divorce. Marriage must adhere to the principles of voluntariness, progressiveness, monogamy, equality and mutual respect between husband and wife".[19][15][20]

On 27 May 2014, the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs removed provisions giving legal status and some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples from the bill submitted by the Ministry of Justice.[21][22] The bill was approved by the National Assembly on 19 June 2014,[23][24] and took effect on 1 January 2015. It states that while Vietnam allows same-sex weddings, it will not offer legal recognition or protection to unions between people of the same sex.[25] Despite the limitation, the Vietnamese LGBT community are optimistic that this latest legislation is an important stepping stone. Jamie Gillen, a National University of Singapore sociology researcher, also stated that Vietnam's relaxation of stance contrasts with Vietnam's neighbors such as Singapore. Vietnam's neighbors forbid same-sex marriages and some of them still criminalise same-sex sexual acts.[26] It is estimated that such relaxed policies will attract tourism revenue as Vietnam attempts to promote themselves as a tolerant and friendly society.

Transgender rights[edit]

Participants at Viet Pride 2016

In 2017, the Ministry of Health estimated that Vietnam's transgender population was at 270,000-300,000 people. In March 2019, a survey conducted by local transgender associations found there were nearly 500,000 transgender people in the country.[27]

A 2018 study revealed that 67.5% of surveyed transgender people suffered psychological issues and that around 60% had attempted suicide, 23% of were "forced to have sex with others", 16% had suffered sexual violence, and 83% had experienced humiliation.[28][29]

On November 24, 2015, Vietnam passed a landmark law by a vote of 282–84, enshrining rights for transgender people in a move advocacy groups say paves the way for sex reassignment surgery. Such operations were previously illegal, forcing people to travel to nearby Thailand for the surgery. The legislation allows those who have undergone sex reassignment to register under their preferred sex.[30] The law went into effect in January 2017.[31] However, for that law to be fully enforced, a further bill needs to be passed. This bill covers the requirements for gender change applicants and the requirements for those performing it.[32][33] In November 2018, speaking at a transgender rights event, the Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations and Nguyễn Huy Quang, head of the Department of Legislation at the Ministry of Health, announced that the National Assembly is expected to discuss the bill in 2020.[29][34][35]

Military service[edit]

In Vietnam, one can serve in the Armed Forces irrespective of one's sexual orientation. Military service is compulsory for men from the age of 18, while women may volunteer.[36]

Public opinion[edit]

In 2001, a survey found that 82% of Vietnamese believed homosexuality "is never acceptable".[37]

In 2007, Ho Chi Minh City Pedagogical University conducted a poll of 300 pupils at three junior high and high schools and discovered that 80% of pupils answered "no" when asked, "Is homosexuality bad?"[38]

A March 2014 poll indicated that 33.7% of Vietnamese supported same-sex marriage, whereas 53% were opposed.[39]

An online survey carried out in December 2016 found that 45% of respondents supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, while 25% opposed it and 30% answering "don't know".[40]

Living conditions[edit]

Participants at the 2014 Viet Pride parade

In 2000, crime journalist Bui Anh Tan's novel A World Without Women (Một Thế Giới Không Có Đàn Bà) was the first fictional Vietnamese book to deal extensively with gay people. In 2007, the story was turned into a television series.[41]

In 2002, the government-run media declared homosexuality to be a "social evil" comparable to prostitution, gambling and illegal drug use and promised that legislation would be forthcoming to allow the government to combat homosexuality and arrest same-sex couples.[42] Publications such as Thế Giới Phụ Nữ and Tiếp thị & Gia đình spoke of homosexuality as a disease and "deviant behavior that is incompatible with the good morals and time-honored customs of Vietnam."[43] In November 2002, the Communist Youth Newspaper carried a story about homosexuality that stated "some people are born gay, just as some people are born left-handed".[44]

In 2009, Pham Le Quynh Tram became the first transgender woman to be legally recognized by Vietnamese authorities as a woman.[45][46] As such, she was allowed to redefine her sex from male to female and to legally change her name to Pham Le Quynh Tram.[45][46] However, according to a report from the Huffington Post, her official recognition was apparently withdrawn in late January 2013.[47]

In September 2010, Tuoi Tre Online, the internet edition of the Tuoi Tre newspaper, published a letter from an 18-year-old reader describing his hard time dealing with family after they found out he was gay. The letter received hundreds of supportive responses from other readers that led the website to conclude it with an interview with Dr. Huynh Van Son, Dean of Psychology, at the Ho Chi Minh City Pedagogical University. For the first time, a major state media agreed that "homosexuality is normal".[48] On 29 November, the first foreign same-sex wedding was held in Hanoi between a Japanese and an Irish national. The wedding raised much attention in the gay and lesbian community in Vietnam.[49] Another ceremonial same-sex wedding between two Vietnamese citizens, Quốc Khánh and Thành Lợi, was held in Haiphong in northern Vietnam in June 2018.[50]

On 5 August 2012, Vietnam's first gay pride parade took place in Hanoi, with participants expressing support for equal marriage rights for LGBT individuals.[51]

In 2013, Vietnamese filmer Dang Khoa, produced a sitcom entitled My Best Gay Friends. The series is published on YouTube as Vietnamese broadcasters were reluctant to air the episodes. Khoa wanted to create the show to debunk the caricature stereotypes of homosexuality.[52]

Madam Phung's Last Journey (2014) is an award-winning documentary film about a transgender band directed by Tham Nguyen Thi. The film was met with international success and appraisal from critics.[53][54] Another critically acclaimed movie is Finding Phong (2017), directed by Tran Phuong Thao and Swann Dubus.[55][56]

A 2015 study revealed that around 44% of Vietnamese LGBT students aged 14–22 faced stigma, discrimination and violence because of their sexual orientation. Another 2015 study conducted by UNESCO found that 19% of students perceived bullying against LGBT students as "harmless". 70% of Hanoi parents said they would not allow their children to talk to gay students, and some believed that conversion therapy could help "cure" LGBT children.[57] A 2014 USAID report showed that 54% of LGBT students said their school was not safe, with many dropping out. Of those who experienced violence, one third said they thought about committing suicide, with half of those attempting it. 85% of transgender students stated they dropped out because of assault and bullying.[58]

Former American Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, was openly gay and known for his support of LGBT rights in Vietnam, and attended several pride events with his husband.[59]

From September 18, 2017 to September 24, 2017, Vietnam's Hanoi Pride took place for a 5th consecutive year. The event hosted thousands of people, compared to only about a hundred at the first pride parade.[60] Irish drag queen Panti Bliss attended the event.[61] The sixth Hanoi Pride took place in November 2018, and saw the participation of more than a 1,000 people. The parade uniquely involves supporters and participants peddling on their bikes to campaign for transgender rights and same-sex marriage in the country.[62][63] Over 35 similar events are held each year throughout Vietnam, including in the cities of Haiphong, Thanh Hóa, Da Nang, Qui Nhơn, Nha Trang, Vũng Tàu, Ho Chi Minh City and Cần Thơ. The events were aired by several Vietnamese television channels, namely VTV4, VTV6 and VTV9.[64][65]


In 2006, the Government enacted legislation to protect citizens infected with HIV and people living with AIDS from discrimination, and health care is provided free to all Vietnamese citizens.[66]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Always legal)
Equal age of consent Yes (Always equal)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only No
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption for single people regardless of sexual orientation Yes
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gay, lesbian and bisexual people allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender No (Pending)
Right to change sex surgically Yes
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Explicit ban regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (Not prohibited)[67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Gays Rights and the Law, Legality of Homosexuality in Vietnam by Utopia Asia". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. ^ Vietnam Has Been Praised As A Leader In LGBT Rights. Activists Beg To Differ
  3. ^ "Vietnam's first gay pride parade helps unite the LGBT community". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. ^ Getting ready for the fourth Viet Pride
  5. ^ Anti-LGBTI push at U.N. falls short Erasing 76 Crimes
  6. ^ "UN creates LGBT expert post; SL votes in favour". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  7. ^ Lê Thái Dũng (27 April 2013). "Lê Thánh Tông xử án quan hệ đồng tính nữ sinh con". Người đưa tin. Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  8. ^ "The Legality of Homosexuality in Vietnam". 21 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  9. ^ "Glitter police 'drop rape charge'". 2005-12-26. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  10. ^ "Shamed rocker Glitter on the run". The Washington Post. 17 November 2005. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Vietnam government consults on same-sex marriage", Gay Star News, 20 June 2012
  12. ^ (in Vietnamese) P.Thảo (2013-06-26). "Sẽ không cấm kết hôn giữa người đồng giới?". Dân Trí. Archived from the original on 2013-06-27. Retrieved 2013-06-28.
  13. ^ "Fifty shades of pink". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  14. ^ Nghị quyết sửa đổi, bổ sung Hiến pháp năm 1992 (in Vietnamese)
  15. ^ a b DPA (2013-11-28). "Vietnam amends Constitution". Retrieved 2014-01-05.
  16. ^ Newspaper, Tuoi Tre. "Vietnam to remove fines on same-sex marriage". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  18. ^ Một số điểm mới về xử phạt vi phạm hành chính tại Nghị định số 110/2013/NĐ-CP Archived 2014-05-17 at the Wayback Machine (in Vietnamese)
  19. ^ (in Vietnamese) Nghị quyết sửa đổi, bổ sung Hiến pháp năm 1992
  20. ^ "Hiến pháp năm 2013, Chương II: Quyền con người, quyền và nghĩa vụ cơ bản của công dân". (in Vietnamese). Archived from the original on 2018-11-13. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  21. ^ "Vietnamese lawmakers back down on giving rights to same-sex couples". 30 May 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  22. ^ Brown, Marianne. "Vietnam's Proposed Marriage Law Disappoints LGBT Activists". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  23. ^ "Vietnam allows surrogacy within families, denies same-sex marriage". 20 June 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  24. ^ Newspaper, Tuoi Tre. "Vietnam removes ban on same sex marriage". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Vietnam set to lift gay marriage ban". 29 December 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  26. ^ Marr, Richard.'Vietnam Removes Same-Sex Marriage Ban'.January 8, 2015, Metro Weekly. Vietnam Removes Same-Sex Marriage Ban, retrieved January 10, 2015
  27. ^ "Vietnam Proposes Law to Officially Recognize Transgender People | Saigoneer". Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  28. ^ "Conference discusses legal framework to protect transgender people". 27 September 2018.
  29. ^ a b "Transgender law to be discussed by 2020". Retrieved 2019-08-06.
  30. ^ Vietnam: Positive Step for Transgender Rights
  31. ^ "Vietnamese Law to Recognize Transgender People in 2017". Archived from the original on 2017-10-18. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  32. ^ Nguyen, Sen (21 June 2019). "LGBT rights: Vietnam recognises transgender people, but there's a flaw in the law". South China Morning Post.
  33. ^ "Vietnam recognises transgender people, but there's a flaw in the law". asiaone. 21 June 2019.
  34. ^ "Transgender law to be discussed by 2020". 30 November 2018. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018. Retrieved 6 August 2019.
  35. ^ "Cộng đồng người chuyển giới đang mong có Luật để được thực hiện quyền của mình". VietNamNet (in Vietnamese). 28 November 2019.
  36. ^ Vietnamese treatment of homosexuals
  37. ^ No Queers here Archived June 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ "Vietnamese high school pupils accepting of homosexuality", PinkNews, reported by Joe Roberts, 26 October 2007
  39. ^ "53% protest gay marriage legalization in Vietnam: study". 27 March 2014.
  40. ^ Global Attitudes Survey on LGBT people
  41. ^ "/ARTS WEEKLY/VIETNAM: Closet Gays Slowly Coming Out". 20 July 2004. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  42. ^ "Vietnam Media Call Homosexuality "Social Evil," Vow Crackdown". The Body. 19 April 2002. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  43. ^ "AEGiS-AFP News: Lifestyle-Vietnam-gays: Vietnam's gays begin to gain recognition - August 3, 2003". 2003-08-03. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  44. ^ Active Travel Vietnam. "Advice for Gay and Lesbian Travellers Travelling Vietnam, Vietnam Travel Tips". Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  45. ^ a b "First Transgender Woman Legally Recognized in Vietnam",, 9 September 2012
  46. ^ a b "The first trans-gender legally recognized in Vietnam", VietNamNet, 3 September 2012
  47. ^ Pham Le Quynh Tram, Transgender Vietnamese Woman, Loses Government Recognition (Huffington Post).
  48. ^ (in Vietnamese) "Hãy nhìn nhận đồng tính là bình thường", 23 September 2010 Archived 8 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  49. ^ (in Vietnamese) "Lễ kết hôn đồng giới tại Hà Nội", Viet
  50. ^ "Gay couple ties the knot in fairy-tale wedding in northern Vietnam". Tuoi Tre News. 11 June 2018.
  51. ^ "Vietnam's first gay pride parade helps unite the LGBT community", reported by Agence France-Presse, published on the website of The Raw Story, 5 August 2012
  52. ^ "Homosexual sitcom an online hit, too sensitive for Vietnamese TV". 12 September 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  53. ^ Verongos, Helen (11 November 2015). "Review: 'Madam Phung's Last Journey' Follows A Gender-Bending Troupe". The New York Times.
  54. ^ Scheck, Frank (13 November 2015). "'Madam Phung's Last Journey': Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter.
  55. ^ Nguyen, An (30 September 2018). "Award-winning documentary about Vietnamese transgender woman to screen in Vietnam". VNExpress.
  56. ^ Lassen, Amos (26 April 2016). ""Finding Phong"—Trans in Vietnam". Reviews by Amos Lassen.
  57. ^ Flanagan, Jack (3 January 2016). "Vietnam has a long way to go, say LGBT students". Gay Star News.
  58. ^ Nguyen, Thoi (28 February 2020). "The Fight for LGBT Rights in Vietnam Still Has a Long Way To Go". The Diplomat.
  59. ^ US ambassador to Vietnam advocating for LGBT rights in Southeast Asia
  60. ^ "Largest event for LGBTQ community underway in Hanoi - News VietNamNet". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  61. ^ Panti Bliss aka Rory O Neill Visit to Vietnam
  62. ^ "Hanoi Pride Festival 2018 filled with joy, colours". VietNamNet. 13 November 2018.
  63. ^ "Gay Pride dans les rues d'Hanoï". Euronews (in French). 11 November 2018.
  64. ^ "Rainbow flag movements make inroads in Vietnam". 20 May 2018.
  65. ^ "Transgender People Can Change Gender on Legal Documents in 2017". Saigoneer. 19 December 2016.
  66. ^ Knox, Richard (2007-02-05). "Vietnam Expands Protection for People with HIV". NPR. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  67. ^ "Đồng tính nam không được phép hiến máu nhân đạo!". Archived from the original on 28 November 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2017.

External links[edit]