Vietnam Says Being Gay Is ‘Not A Disease’, Outlaws Conversion Practices

Vietnam Says Being Gay Is ‘Not A Disease’, Outlaws Conversion Practices
Image: Ambassadors of the Tôi Đồng Ý (I Agree) gay marriages campaign.

Vietnam’s Health Ministry said being gay or trans is not a “disease” and urged medical practitioners to stop discriminating against LGBTQI people in health care . 

Vietnam’s Health Ministry published a document on August 3, in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) which confirmed that “homosexuality is entirely not an illness, therefore homosexuality cannot be ‘cured’ nor need[s] to be ‘cured’ and cannot be converted in any way.”

The statement also urged medical professionals need to be “fair and respectful” of queer people’s sexuality and not to discriminate against the LGBTQI community. The document also stated that so called conversion therapy, to change a persons sexual orientation or gender identity was illegal.

Coercing LGBTQI People To Undergo Medical Treatment Outlawed

“Do not consider homosexuality, bisexuality or being transgender a disease. Do not coerce members of these groups into medical treatment. If any, only provide psychiatric help, which must be conducted by experts with knowledge of gender identities,” the statement said. 

In 2010, a study done by the Vietnam Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment found “87 per cent of participants did not understand LGBT concerns and rights or had a very limited understanding of LGBT rights.” 

Since then, the Vietnam government has legalised the right to change gender and lifted a ban on same-sex marriages in 2015. The country while repealing fines on same-sex couple who marry, still does not have laws that legalise gay marriages or give legal rights to same-sex couples. 

Vietnam currently does not provide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people nor has it prohibited hate crimes based on sexual orientation or identity.

Fight To Legalise Gay Marriages Continues 

LGBTQ advocate groups,  ICS and iSEE, have begun a campaign titled, Tôi Đồng Ý (I agree) in a bid to garner support for the legalisation of same-sex marriages. Al Jazeera reported that the campaign has already achieved over a million signatures just three days after it began. 

ICS Director Linh Ngo spoke to Al Jazeera stating that the petition would “continue until same-sex marriage is legalised.” 

Senior health and LGBTQI  rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, Kyle Knight, in a press statement said that the decision by the Vietnamese Health Ministry to recognise “sexual orientation and gender identity are not illnesses will bring relief to LGBTQI people and their families across Vietnam.” 

“LGBTQI people in Vietnam deserve access to health information and services without discrimination, and the Health Ministry’s new directive is a major step in the right direction,” Knight said. 

Vietnam’s Law on Marriage and Family is set to undergo a ten-year review in 2024, where there will be opportunity for changes to be made into the country’s legislation in support of LGBTQI rights. 


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