In the past few weeks, there's been a good buzz coming from Vietnam. The Associated Press reported on the Justice Ministry's proposal on same-sex couples, and the Justice Minister said some very reasonable words that show a respect for LGBT rights that have never come from our local Singapore ministers.
Even longtime gay rights activists are stunned by the Justice Ministry's proposal to include same-sex couples in its overhaul of the country's marriage law. No one knows what form it will take or whether it will survive long enough to be debated before the National Assembly next year, but supporters say the fact that it's even being considered is a victory in a region where simply being gay can result in jail sentences or whippings.
Fridae has followed up on this. It seems they spoke to several organisations within the country, including iSEE (Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment), a Vietnamese non-profit that works on LGBT issues. The head of iSEE, Le Quang Binh, clarified that "the government is not considering same-sex marriage but the legal consequences of same-sex couples".
So there are limits to the leap, and full legalisation may take some time yet. But it is notable that a process of consultation has been taking place between the government and LGBT organisations, and that a government official is stepping forward to make a statement to recognise LGBT rights and the realities within the country. (Leadership, anyone?)
On 12 June 2012, the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) – a not-for-profit research organisation that was involved in the launch of PFLAG Vietnam – was invited to a meeting with department of civil and economic law that is tasked to draft the marriage law revision. The representatives from the ministry of justice expressed their desire to have a dialogue with LGBT communities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, organise meetings between LGBT and same-sex relationship with experts from Vietnam and other countries, and educate the public on same-sex relationships.
Over the weekend, Vietnam managed to hold its first gay pride parade as well.
Organised by the city's small but growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, the event went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colourful convoy of about 100 activists despite their lack of official permission.
"There was no intervention which is a good thing for Vietnam," said one of the organisers, Tam Nguyen.
She said the parade had helped unite the LGBT community and raise awareness among "curious" onlookers, although many had no idea what the rainbow flag -- an international symbol for LGBT groups -- symbolised.
Something to think about for us in the rest of Asia, especially as Singapore is having its own pride season, IndigNation. Do attend if you haven't yet!