Vietnam ministry mulls legalizing same-sex marriage

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The Ministry of Justice is collecting opinions from agencies and organizations about the legalization of same-sex marriage as it drafts modifications to the current marriage laws, VnExpress reported Friday.

In its latest letters to social organizations and related agencies, the ministry said it is considering legalizing same-sex marriage because increasing numbers of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people were coming out and declaring their sexual orientations.

Their need to get married and live together is also increasing, while the Law on Marriage and Family issued in 2000 outlaws same-sex marriage, the ministry said.

"To guarantee personal freedom, the marriage between same sex people needs to be recognized."

However, on the other hand, the ministry stressed that it is too early to legalize same-sex marriage in Vietnam, considering traditional customs. Moreover, the sensitive nature of the issue and its consequences have yet to be fully grasped, it said.

Meanwhile, a representative of the Information Connecting and Sharing (ICS), a non-governmental organization working for the benefits of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people in Vietnam, said they support the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Marriage needs to be considered as the right of every person whatever their sexuality, the representative was cited as saying.

With legalization, homosexual people's personal rights, especially during the time of living together, like those regarding children's custody and property inheritance, will be protected by laws.

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Married homosexual people then would be bound by legal frames, which could help decrease social evils like male prostitution that carries high risks of HIV transmission, the ICS representative said.

According to ICS, a survey in June found that 71.1 percent of 5,000 homosexual respondents want to get married with their same-sex partners, while 24.7 percent want to register their living together arrangements with local authorities.

The rest accept living together without registration.

The association of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays in Vietnam recently also organized a seminar with the participation of experts to call for the legalization of same-sex marriage, VnExpress reported.

Currently no official statistics on homosexual people in Vietnam are available, it said.

In May, authorities in the Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang 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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