Vietnamese pre-modern culture recounts suggest that sexuality was viewed as wholesome and in harmony with nature, with local festivals encouraging sexual exploration and activity to promote fertility and prosperity. The first recorded discussions of homosexual practice, transgender expression and cross-dressing as sins came from Western literature, by French colonialists who wrote about the indigenous culture of the region in the late 19th century. Derogatory language towards LGBT persons is still entrenched with such heritage, as the most commonly used slur “pédé” derives from the French word “pédéraste”.
Urban centres grew as part of the modernization of Viet Nam in the 20th century, giving LGBT people places to gather. Communities of sexual and gender minorities became more socially visible. The recent socialist reconstruction movement highly emphasized relations outside of marriage as illicit and immoral, suppressed sexual education and carried a tight control on female sexuality. As a highly patriarchal society, non-normative sexual orientation and gender identity are traditionally viewed and discussed as male homosexuality. Male-to-female transgender identity and expression are more visible and repelled in the community. Female homosexuality might not be as contentious as long as the woman conforms to the social norm of building a family (marrying a man and raising children).
Traditional perceptions of sex, sexuality and family in Vietnam make families generally hostile to LGBT individuals. There are no support hotlines and a lack of information. For a long period, the media was extremely hostile towards LGBT people and their issues, a relevant reason for social disapproval in the communist country, featuring coverage that was sensational and filled with inaccurate information.
While discrimination persists, some improvements have been achieved through the use of community media channels – particularly international media sources and the internet – by LGBTI groups and allies.
Viet Pride, the first-ever Pride event in Vietnam, took place with a bicycle march across the capital of Hanoi in 2012. Not Only Voices was there during the 2015 Pride. After the lift of penalties towards symbolic same-sex marriages, a wave of ceremonies started taking place in provinces far from the more diversity-accepting big city centres like Ho Chi Min City and Hanoi. These weddings were frequently covered by the media and contributed to raise awareness and visibility of the community. The social and political environment is still not as aware of gender-diverse people. While lesbian and gay people usually tend to remain their sexuality hidden (studies estimate up to 5% of them come out to family and friends), trans people are more targeted, and face severe discrimination in the fields of education, employment and health-care.
In the past few years, the LGBT community in Vietnam has grown stronger: a number of civil society organizations and advocates have emerged to discuss the rights and claims of LGBT people across the country. The movement has surged from on-line groups that formed and promoted networks connecting LGBT people. They have achieved important milestones lately, amidst a critical human rights situation in general, given the country’s lack of basic freedoms for its citizens and endemic official corruption.
- Status of Same-Sex Sexual Activities
Legal for both female and male sexual activityThere are no records of same-sex sexual activities ever being criminalized in Vietnam. Homosexual activity has only been punished under Although homosexuality or sodomy are not specifically referred to anywhere in modern Vietnamese criminal law, provisions such as 'undermining public morality' can be legal basis for punishing what authorities can interpret as homosexual behavior.
- Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships
UnrecognizedThe marriage law explicitly prohibits marriage between same-sex couples. However, in 2013, the law was modified to remove all penalties involved with symbolic marriage ceremonies or attempts to register same-sex civil unions, effectively de-penalizing the act. Proposition 110 still states that same sex union is not legal, but symbolic ceremonies are no longer interrupted, and fines are no longer applied.
- Same-Sex Parenting
No provisionsIn Vietnam, a person may only be adopted by one person or two persons being husband and wife. Same-sex marriage has been de-penalized but not recognized, therefore same-sex couples are not legally entitled to joint adoption. There are no legal barriers for LGBT people to adopt as a single parent.
- Legal Gender Recognition and Sex Reassigment Surgery
LEGAL, BUT REQUIRES SURGERY.In 2015, The Vietnamese Government voted in favor of granting the right to change an individual's legal gender after the full surgical sex-reassignment procedure is finalized. The Law came into effect in early 2017.
- Laws and Policies on Discrimination
There are no anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBTI persons from discriminations regarding education, employment, and others.
Donations from “men who have sex with men” are not explicitly prohibited by Law, but are highly highly discouraged by the State.
In 2006, the government enacted legislation to protect persons living with HIV/AIDS from discrimination, and health-care is free
The age of consent for sexual activity for homosexual or heterosexual relations is the same - 16 years old.