Myths about sexual orientation and gender identity in Vietnam are fuelling violence and discrimination, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released today.
The New York-based NGO’s study said young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Vietnamese citizens faced stigma and discrimination because of a belief that homosexuality was a diagnosable, treatable and curable mental health condition.
“There’s a lot of pressure on kids to be straight,” a school counsellor told HRW. “It’s constantly referenced that being attracted to someone of the same sex is something that can, and should be, changed and fixed.”
Teachers were often untrained in handling homophobia and same-sex attraction was often described as a disease, HRW said.
“The government of Vietnam has indicated support for the rights of LGBT people in recent years but tangible policy change has lagged,” said Graeme Reid, HRW’s LGBT specialist. “LGBT youth are especially vulnerable due to inadequate legal protection and widespread misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity.”
HRW said it interviewed 52 young members of the Vietnamese LGBT community and school staff.
The report detailed the Vietnamese government’s policy commitments made to protect LGBT rights.
Tuyet, an 18-year-old bisexual woman, told HRW: “My high school teachers said bad things about LGBT people. During a class to educate us about family and marriage, the teacher said, ‘Homosexuality is an illness and it’s very bad’.”
In 2015 Vietnam made international headlines when it allowed citizens who had undergone gender reassignment surgery to register under their new gender. But Vietnam has still not passed the bill required to enforce that legislation, meaning that LGBT discrimination goes unchecked, activists say.
“The current national curriculum and sex education policy fall short of international standards and do not include mandatory discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity,” HRW wrote.
Last year the education ministry produced guidelines for an LGBT-inclusive curriculum but it has not yet appeared.
In 2016 on the UN Human Rights Council, Vietnam voted in favour of a resolution on the protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hanoi’s Pride parade in 2016. Vietnam is regarded as one of the more tolerant Asean members on LGBT rights. Picture credit: Wikimedia