Vietnam celebrates first gay festival

TN News

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Young people in Hanoi raise banners advocating LGBT rights at a parade on Sunday morning, part of the Vietnamese version of the Pride Parades, which originated in New York.

Hundreds of people rode bicycles in a parade calling for an end to discrimination against gay people in Hanoi Sunday morning.

The three hour parade started at 8:30 a.m. and went from My Dinh Stadium to Bach Thao Zoo as part of Viet Pride, the first edition of Vietnamese version of Pride Parades, a worldwide event begun in New York in 1969 celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender culture, Tuoi Tre reported.

Viet Pride was organized by Vietnam's Center for Studied and Applied Sciences in Gender, the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population, and the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment.

Though it was the first time such an event has been held in Vietnam, the festival received positive responses from the public, said the coordinator Nguyen Thanh Tam.

Hundreds of people from the LGBT community in Vietnam have arrived at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi over the past days to join Viet Pride conferences, dialogues and film screenings, Tam told national radio station Voice of Vietnam.

Nguyen Van Anh, director of the gender center, told Tuoi Tre there was discrimination against gay people in Vietnam.

"There's a lot to do to gain sympathy, or even recognition from society for gay people."

Pham Thi Mai, a resident who joined the bicycle parade, said the parade "not only makes the public understands gay people more, but is also for gay people to recognize their own value."

Huynh Minh Thao, the media representative of an LGBT advocate group, said "The festival, together with other acts and events, would help gay people be more confident and step out of their masks."

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Vietnam Ministry of Justice is collecting opinions from social organizations and related agencies about the legalization of same-sex marriage, which was outlawed by the Law on Marriage and Family issued in 2000, but the demand for it has been increasing among the LGBT community.

On July 28, a lesbian couple organized a wedding at a restaurant in Binh Duong Province outside Ho Chi Minh City, with their parents and around 150 guests.

Investigators are searching for the couple in order to punish them.

In May, authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang also fined a family for organizing a public celebration of their son's marriage to another man.

A few years ago, a lesbian couple in the southern province of Ca Mau was also fined for organizing a similar wedding ceremony.

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