Vietnam Passes Transgender Rights Law, But Is It Good Enough?

Vietnam’s parliament has passed legislation that is aimed at protecting its transgender citizens. The bill focuses on legalizing sexual reassignment surgery as well as legally recognizing the new gender of those who have undergone the procedure. It’s largely seen as a positive step by Vietnam’s transgender community – who often had to go to countries like Thailand for such operations.

However, not everybody is impressed with the new legislation. That’s because it doesn’t take into account the burden of forced sterilization. This is an issue that has plagued transgender citizens all over the world. For instance, places assumed to be liberal on LGBTQ rights, such as Europe, still has some countries that require sterilization for legal gender reassignment

The idea that someone has to change their genitals and their ability to have children to have their gender identity legally accepted goes against what’s known as the Yogyakarta Principles. This set of principals was created to address the application of human rights when it comes to sexual and gender orientation. Principal 3 clearly states that:

“No one shall be forced to undergo medical procedures, including sex reassignment surgery, sterilisation or hormonal therapy, as a requirement for legal recognition of their gender identity. No status, such as marriage or parenthood, may be invoked as such to prevent the legal recognition of a person’s gender identity. No one shall be subjected to pressure to conceal, suppress or deny their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Still even though the law has some setbacks, many LGBTQ activists in Vietnam see it as a good starting point. Nguyen Hai Yen, a LGBTQ activist told Human Rights Watch that, “We are celebrating this victory not only for our community, but also for our country. Vietnam has become more tolerant and inclusive…Still, a lot of work needs to be done to ensure a gender recognition procedure that meets transgender people’s needs. In amending the civil code, an important door has been opened for us.”

Transgendered people, and especially transwomen, often face discrimination in Vietnam. This discrimination is manifested in high levels of high school dropouts, higher levels of poverty and threats to their personal safety.

One startling case, highlighted by the Kaleidoscope Australia Human Rights Foundation report on sexual identities in Vietnam, shows how important legally recognizing gender identity can be for Vietnamese citizens, “Sexual assault in Viet Nam is defined as an act that occurs between a male and female, as recognised by law. Because transgender women are not currently allowed to change their gender, and are therefore legally recognised as male, sexual assaults against them by men are not treated as such under the criminal law. For example, in April 2010, a transgender woman in Quang Binh Province was raped by three men. The local court declined to find the men guilty of rape as the victim was not legally identified as a woman. According to the court, a victim of rape can only be a ‘naturally-born’ female.”

Not only is it an incredibly archaic (and dangerous) to say that men can’t be victims of sexual assault, but to deny people their gender identity clearly puts the already vulnerable group of transwomen at further risk of being assaulted with impunity.

It is admirable that Vietnam is taking these steps to start recognizing their transgendered citizens and allowing for sexual reassignment surgery. However, its law should be amended to ensure that it doesn’t force sterilizations or create a system wherein transgender citizens are discriminated against based on their anatomy.

Photo Credit: theodoranian/wikimedia

41 comments

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Past Member 2 years ago

It is extremely nice to see the greatest details presented in an easy and understanding manner.

Paul Dansker

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Karen C.
Karen C2 years ago

This is a start to giving equal rights to all humans! In the future I hope no one is denied freedom to choose who they want to be, sexual orientation and gender-wise

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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James Baret
James Baret2 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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.2 years ago

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.2 years ago

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS AND SORRY BUT CREDITS FOR KITTEN:-)

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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Roberto M.
Past Member 2 years ago

THANKS

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