Participants ride bicycles during a local annual gay pride parade in Hanoi on August 4, 2013. A survey that found a majority of Vietnamese people support same-sex relationship has been launched as lawmakers are scheduled to vote on an update of the Marriage and Family Law in May. Photo: AFP
Linh, a marketer in Hanoi, was under pressure from her parents to marry a man despite the fact that she had come out as a lesbian.
“They can’t understand the feelings of a lesbian who has to marry to a man. It’s similar to marriages between two heterosexual men, or two heterosexual women,” she said.
Unable to force Linh to get married to the man they chose, her parents anaesthetized her and had the man rape her, hoping she would accept him after that.
Linh ended up trying to commit suicide and was eventually admitted to a mental hospital.
Although many homosexuals are still facing discrimination by both their families and society at large, the group has been accepted by a growing and increasingly vocal segment of Vietnamese society that a recent survey suggests may be closing in on a majority.
Lawmakers scheduled to discuss same-sex relationships at a coming session in May will have to take all that into account when they vote on changes to the Marriage and Family Law that while not fully legalizing gay marriage, could at least decriminalize it.
According to the survey released on Wednesday by the Institute of Sociology, Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) and Health Strategy and Policy Institute, almost a majority of Vietnamese people support the legalization of same-sex relationships.
More than a third of respondents said they support legalizing same-sex marriage and 41 percent support legalizing the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children and share assets and inheritance.
“These rights should be stipulated in the Family and Marriage Law,” Dang Nguyen Anh, director of the Institute of Sociology, said.
The survey polled 5,300 people in 68 communes of eight cities and provinces nationwide.
According to the survey, more than 72 percent of respondents said legalization of same-sex marriage would not affect their family and 63.2 percent said the issue would not affect them.
“The proportion of those who…supported same-sex marriage is two times higher than that in the rest of the group,” Anh said. “This shows that the coming out of homosexuals has a positive effect in enlisting society’s support.”
More and more people – “a remarkable proportion of respondents” or some 30 percent – know at least one openly gay or lesbian in their community of relatives, friends, co-workers or neighbors, Anh said.
“This shows same-sex relationships are a real issue in this society that needs to be solved,” he said.
The survey was released as Vietnamese lawmakers are set to discuss and vote on the draft amended Marriage and Family Law in May.
Le Quang Binh, iSEE director, said the survey results will supply facts for lawmakers in amending the law.
“The bill should be amended to comply with the viewpoints of a majority of residents, the actual demands of homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals as well as satisfying the equality principal in Vietnam law,” he said.
In another effort to urge lawmakers to legalize same-sex marriage, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual) community in Vietnam has launched the Toi Dong Y (I Do) initiative to call on more support for the legalization of the issue.
It has drawn more than 75,000 people since it was launched last October.
Participants can support same-sex marriage by sharing their opinions on social networks by changing their avatar or profile picture to the I Do logo or taking pictures with the logo.
In the latest version of the draft update of the Marriage and Family Law, an article banning same-sex marriage was removed. However, it proposed that “the government not recognize marriages between people of the same-sex.”
It proposed two options for dealing with legal matters among same-sex couples who cohabitate: either not stipulating anything or solving “consequences of living together between homosexuals” over shared assets.
For the latter, it proposed that rights over shared assets be solved based on bilateral agreements, and by the Civil Codes in case there is any dispute.
According to the Ho Chi Minh City-based LGBT network ICS, the rights and duties of same-sex couples should be stipulated in the new law by giving same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples.
It also urged lawmakers to stipulate rights and duties over their adoptive children.
On the right track
Luong The Huy, a researcher on LGBT issues at iSEE, said Vietnam is on the right track towards recognizing the rights of the group and that lawmakers should be determined to legalize same-sex marriage.
Three countries on three continents legalized same-sex marriage within a month in 2013, including New Zealand, Brazil and France, he said.
In Asia, Thailand is drafting a law on same-sex relationships and Cambodia is amending its Civil Code by abolishing the definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
Worldwide, 16 countries and parts of Mexico and the US have laws allowing same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships. Most of these are in Europe and South America.
“Vietnam is in a very suitable stage [for same-sex legalization] with both domestic and international support,” he said.
“More importantly, the right thing should be done.”
Xuan Tu, a homosexual in Hanoi said: “The bottom line all insiders want is an official relationship recognized and protected by law.
“’Solving consequences of living together between homosexuals’ is only a bilateral agreement, just like between any two strangers.”
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