The Ministry of Health has emerged as a new champion for transgender people's rights in Vietnam after it urged the government to consider new legislation that will make sex reassignment surgery legal.
Health officials also want the Civil Code, which is being amended, to include regulations that allow transgender people to easily change their name and gender identification in birth certificates.
At least 600 Vietnamese who have transitioned are still waiting to do so, according to the Ministry of Health’s Maternal and Child Health Department.
Nguyen Huy Quang, director of the ministry’s Legal Department, said many people have undergone gender reassignment procedures even though they are illegal.
“There are about 500,000 people nationwide whose assigned genders are incongruous with their gender identity. Up to 1,000 of them have had gender reassignment surgery,” he said.
Vietnam has been sending out mixed messages when it comes to rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
For instance, the country lifted a ban on same-sex marriage ceremonies early this year. However, the government has yet to offer gay couples legal recognition.
Under a 2008 government decree, sex reassignment is strictly limited to only those without complete sex organs and those with both male and female sex organs. Procedures are only allowed at a few designated hospitals.