Same-sex lovers say facing more challenges for walking odd path

Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the March 7th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)

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Amnesty International calls for more respect of sexuality rights
Newly married same-sex couple Tran Ngoc Diem Hang (R) and Le Thuy Linh (2nd, R) share a moment during their public wedding as part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) event on a street in Hanoi October 27, 2013. Vietnam has 1,65 million LGBT people with three percent of the population aged from 15 to 59, according to Le Quang Binh, the director of the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment and the organizer of the event. Photo: Reuters
Partners in same-sex relationship said they need to be stronger and better prepared for a family than anyone as they receive support and guidance from almost no one.
An online survey by the Hanoi-based Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) found that 50.2 percent of those who have come out to their parents received objection against their relationship, 31.2 percent said their parents ignored it and only 18.6 percent received their parents’ support.
The survey was posted on the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community forums and news websites, and received 2,483 respondents, in which 800 men and 461 women were having same-sex romantic relationship.
Fifty four respondents said they got married to heterosexual people as forced by their families but more than half of them had divorced as they were unhappy and their partners did not accept their sexual orientation.
Most of the surveyed said their relationship was challenged by the disapproval of their family, disregard from the public and the laws.
They said any relationship has its conflicts and then they don’t have advice or supports from their friends or family.
With no marriage certificates and children to bind them, the broke-up chance of same-sex couples is higher, they said.
Huynh Minh Thao, 31, an admin of taoxanh.net (green apple) which is a social network for gay men in Vietnam, said those boundaries will cause one to consider more before deciding to let go.
Another iSEE survey interviewed 854 people of between 18 and 64 years of age from Hanoi, the nearby Ha Nam Province, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.
It showed the society still had heavy prejudice on the LGBT, in the way the respondents identify an LGBT or explain the cause of their orientation.
Although the respondents said they respect the personal choices of LGBT people, they did not support same-sex marriage as it would threaten the traditional marriage system, failing to form a proper family.
Vietnamese legislators said the country is being progressive with gay marriage as although
the proposed Family and Marriage Law has not officially recognized the marriage, it has lifted fines on it.
Vietnam scrapped fines against same-sex marriage under a decree taking effect last November as local LGBT communities and activists are pushing forwards to legalizing the issue.
Tang Ai Linh and Pham Thi Thanh Phuong, a lesbian couple who have been together for 12 years, said any LGBT needs to first equip them with good education that can make them a living before they come out.
“You need to build a strong foundation. Only then will your home with your true orientation can stand against any storm,” they said.
Linh was living in Singapore when she knew Phuong online in 2002. She pretended like a boy to chat with Phuong and they became a couple.
When she came back to Ho Chi Minh City, she had to pretend to be that boy’s friend to see Phuong. After several hangouts, she told Phuong her feelings but Phuong refused.
But Phuong called three days later and accepted the relationship, turning down two heterosexual marriages their families had planned for them.
Phuong said they got married on their own and they decided that the road ahead will be very difficult.
“Our families were no longer there… The bitterness of life was sometimes unbearable. We felt pity seeing our friends successful thanks to their parents’ support.”
Linh also said the journey would be more difficult when one choose to do it on their own. “But difficulties are also the motivation for the two of us.”
The couple said their education was of big help as they had saved money to finish college and found proper jobs.
Now they are living in an apartment in the city and plan to have an IVF baby.
'Under threat worldwide'
On March 6, Amnesty International warned that sexual and reproductive rights were under threat worldwide, saying that same-sex sexual activity is currently illegal in at least 76 countries, 36 of which are in Africa.
“The health and lives of millions of people across the globe are being threatened by government failures to guarantee their sexual and reproductive rights,” Amnesty International said as it launched a global campaign on this issue.
“It is unbelievable that in the twenty-first century some countries are condoning child marriage and marital rape while others are outlawing abortion, sex outside marriage and same-sex sexual activity – even punishable by death,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general.
“States need to take positive action – not just by getting rid of oppressive laws but also promoting and protecting sexual and reproductive rights, providing information, education, services and ending impunity for sexual violence.”
In the new campaign My Body My Rights, Amnesty International aims to have people empowered to enjoy their sexuality.
The campaign encourages young people around the world to know and demand their right to make decisions about their health, body, sexuality and reproduction without state control, fear, coercion or discrimination.
It also seeks to remind world leaders of their obligations to take positive action, including through access to health services.
“Amnesty International believes that everyone should be free to make decisions about if, when and with whom they have sex, whether or when they marry or have children and how to best protect themselves from sexual ill-health and HIV,” the organization said in a statement.

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