LGBT rights in Vietnam

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Vietnam in its region.svg
StatusNo laws against homosexuality in recorded Vietnamese history
Gender identityTransgender people may change legal gender after surgery[1]
MilitaryLesbian, gay and bisexual people may serve openly
Discrimination protectionsNo
Family rights
Recognition of relationshipsNo

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) persons 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.[2] 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.[3]

Vietnam's first gay pride parade peacefully took place in Hanoi on August 5, 2012. Since then, pride parades have been held annually in dozens of other cities and provinces.[4][5]

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.[6] The creation of the new post was being protested against by the African Group.[7]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual acts are not criminal offenses. In fact, many historians believe that homosexuality was never addressed in the nation's Criminal Code.[8] The Penal Code indicates that the age of consent in Vietnam is 16 regardless of gender or sexual orientation.[9][10]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

In July 2012, the Vietnamese Minister of Justice announced that the Government 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, enacted in 1992, from the Marriage and Family Law 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 Parliament repealed the constitutional provision defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.[19][15]

On 27 May 2014, the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs removed the provision giving legal status and some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples from the bill.[20][21] The bill was approved by the National Assembly on 19 June 2014.[22][23] On 1 January 2015, the amendments to the Marriage and Family Law officially went into effect. 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.[24] 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.[25] It is estimated that such relaxed policies will attract tourism revenue as Vietnam attempts to promote themselves as a tolerant and friendly society.

Gender identity and expression[edit]

Participants at Viet Pride 2016

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.[26][27] The law went into effect in January 2017.[28]

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.[29]

Public opinion[edit]

In 2001, a survey found that 82% of Vietnamese believed homosexuality "is never acceptable".[30]

In 2007, HCMC University of Pedagogy 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?"[31]

A March 2014 poll indicated that 53% of Vietnamese were against same-sex marriage.[32]

An October 2016 opinion poll showed that a plurality (45%) of Vietnamese supported the legalization of same-sex marriage, with 25% against and 30% answering "don't know".[33]

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.[34]

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.[35] Publications such as The Gioi Phu Nu and Tiep Thi Va Gia Dinh spoke of homosexuality as a disease and "deviant behavior that is incompatible with the good morals and time-honored customs of Vietnam."[36]

The same year that the government-run press called homosexuality a "social evil", the Communist Youth Newspaper carried a story about homosexuality that stated "some people are born gay, just as some people are born left-handed".[37]

Controversial film director Le Hoang also took a more liberal tone when he stated that while homosexuality is a mental illness, "qualities such as morality, talent, and dignity do not depend on sexuality."[36]

In 2009, Pham Le Quynh Tram became the first transgender woman to be legally recognized by Vietnamese authorities as a woman.[38][39] As such, she was allowed to redefine her sex from male to female and to legally change her name to Pham Le Quynh Tram.[38][39] However, according to a report from the Huffington Post, her official recognition was apparently withdrawn in late January 2013.[40]

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, HCMC University of Pedagogy. For the first time, a major state media agreed that "homosexuality is normal".[41] On 29 November, the first foreign gay 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.[42]

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.[43]

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.[44]

Former American Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, was known for his support of LGBT rights in Vietnam, and attended several pride events.[45]

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.[46] Irish drag queen, Panti Bliss, attended the event.[47]


In 2006, the Government enacted legislation to protect citizens infected with HIV and persons living with AIDS from discrimination, and health care is provided free to all Vietnamese citizens.[48]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Always legal)
Equal age of consent Yes (Always equal)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes
Same-sex marriages Yes
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
Gays, lesbians and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2017)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (Not prohibited)[49]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GayLawNet®™ - Laws - Vietnam - VN". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  2. ^ "Gays Rights and the Law, Legality of Homosexuality in Vietnam by Utopia Asia". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  3. ^ Vietnam Has Been Praised As A Leader In LGBT Rights. Activists Beg To Differ
  4. ^ "Vietnam's first gay pride parade helps unite the LGBT community". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  5. ^ Getting ready for the fourth Viet Pride
  6. ^ Anti-LGBTI push at U.N. falls short Erasing 76 Crimes
  7. ^ "UN creates LGBT expert post; SL votes in favour". Retrieved 2018-12-10.
  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. 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. ^ "Vietnamese lawmakers back down on giving rights to same-sex couples". 30 May 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  21. ^ Brown, Marianne. "Vietnam's Proposed Marriage Law Disappoints LGBT Activists". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Vietnam allows surrogacy within families, denies same-sex marriage". 20 June 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  23. ^ Newspaper, Tuoi Tre. "Vietnam removes ban on same sex marriage". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Vietnam set to lift gay marriage ban". 29 December 2014. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  25. ^ Marr, Richard.'Vietnam Removes Same-Sex Marriage Ban'.January 8, 2015, Metro Weekly. Vietnam Removes Same-Sex Marriage Ban, retrieved January 10, 2015
  26. ^ "Vietnam passes first law to protect transgender rights". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  27. ^ Vietnam: Positive Step for Transgender Rights
  28. ^ "Vietnamese Law to Recognize Transgender People in 2017". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  29. ^ Vietnamese treatment of homosexuals
  30. ^ No Queers here Archived June 18, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Vietnamese high school pupils accepting of homosexuality", PinkNews, reported by Joe Roberts, 26 October 2007
  32. ^ "53% protest gay marriage legalization in Vietnam: study". 27 March 2014.
  33. ^ Global Attitudes Survey on LGBT people
  34. ^ "/ARTS WEEKLY/VIETNAM: Closet Gays Slowly Coming Out". 20 July 2004. Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  35. ^ "Vietnam Media Call Homosexuality "Social Evil," Vow Crackdown". The Body. 19 April 2002. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  36. ^ a b "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.
  37. ^ Active Travel Vietnam. "Advice for Gay and Lesbian Travellers Travelling Vietnam, Vietnam Travel Tips". Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  38. ^ a b "First Transgender Woman Legally Recognized in Vietnam",, 9 September 2012
  39. ^ a b "The first trans-gender legally recognized in Vietnam", VietNamNet, 3 September 2012
  40. ^ Pham Le Quynh Tram, Transgender Vietnamese Woman, Loses Government Recognition (Huffington Post).
  41. ^ (in Vietnamese) "Hãy nhìn nhận đồng tính là bình thường", 23 September 2010
  42. ^ (in Vietnamese) "Lễ kết hôn đồng giới tại Hà Nội", Viet
  43. ^ "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
  44. ^ "Homosexual sitcom an online hit, too sensitive for Vietnamese TV". 12 September 2013. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  45. ^ US ambassador to Vietnam advocating for LGBT rights in Southeast Asia
  46. ^ "Largest event for LGBTQ community underway in Hanoi - News VietNamNet". Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  47. ^ Panti Bliss aka Rory O Neill Visit to Vietnam
  48. ^ Knox, Richard (2007-02-05). "Vietnam Expands Protection for People with HIV". NPR. Retrieved 2009-05-01.
  49. ^ "'Đồng tính nam không được phép hiến máu nhân đạo!'". Archived from the original on 28 November 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2017.

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