On 24th of November, 2015, the National Assembly of Viet Nam has passed the new Civil Code, which allows sex change and gener marker change. Here are ten things that you need to know what is really happening.



Article 37: Sex change
The sex change is performed as regulated by law. Individuals who underwent surgery have the rights and obligation to register the change of civil status according to the law on civil status; and have the personal rights consistent with new gender as stipulated by this Code and other relevant laws.

1. Who is obligated for the sex change?
The new Civil Code has two articles: Redefine sex (Article 36) and Sex change (Article 37). Redefine sex applies to people who born not clearly male or female (intersex people), and sex change applies to those wishing to change their sex assigned at birth. So, basically, any people can change their sexes as they wish.

2. So I allowed to perform the surgery in Vietnam?
Yes. Sex reassignment surgery are now banned in Vietnam, so transgender people must go to Thailand or other countries for the surgery. With the new regulations, "The sex change is performed as regulated by law" means that people have the right to undergo the sex reassignment surgery in Vietnam.

3. Do I allow to change the gender marker on legal papers after the surgery?
Yes. According to the current law, you can not change the gender marker on legal papers, even after the surgery. With the new regulations, "Individuals who underwent surgery have the rights and obligation to register the change of civil status according to the law on civil status" means after surgery, transgender people can register to change the name as well as the gender marker on legal papers.

4. I do not undergo the sex reassignment surgery/ or don't want to, can I apply for the gender marker change?
Unfortunately no. Under the new regulations, the registration change of civil status only apply to people who underwent the surgery. Many countries do not require the surgery to change the gender marker. There are still many things to work on in the future.

5. I only have partial surgery (breast surgery, hormone use, etc.), can I change the gender on legal papers?
Not clear. Under the new regulations, not yet defined how is the "surgery", in whole or in part. This is usual for the Code to have general regulations and let the guiding documents for the details of implementation. In many countries, the certificate of psychologists  and hormones using for at least 12 months are needed to be able to change the gender on legal paper. We will need to continue providing information and advocating to the policy makers in the near future.

6. So now I can perform the sex reassignment surgery and gender marker change?
Not yet. The new Civil Code will take effect from 01/01/2017 (ie. 12 months more from now). The time is to prepare for the formal application nationwide, since this is a huge Code. From now until 31/12/2016, the current Civil Code 2005 will remain in effect.

7. So it will be 01/01/2017 that I can perform the sex reassignment surgery and gender marker change?
Maybe. Since new regulations reads "The sex change is performed as regulated by law", which means there must be a specific law on sex change. Official time that transgender people can implement their rights will be regulated in such specific law. This is why we will not stop advocating now. Transgender rights are recognized now, however the goal is not to let this rights not implemented. The Minister of Justice said to the media: "In the meeting in July 2016, the new XIV National Assembly will discuss on the legislation agenda. Surely that if the specialize minister [Minster of Health, iSEE] do not propose for the law, we the Minister of Justice will propose the Bill on Gender Recognition. If we do not soon build the law, the rights to change gender which stated in the Civil Code will be nothing but a "paper" rights.

8. Are health facilities in Vietnam capable of performing gender reassignment surgery?
Yes. Pediatric Surgery Association in Vietnam has affirmed that Vietnam is capable of perform gender reassignment surgery. And in reality there have been surgeries for intersex people already.

9. Do same-sex marriage legalized by this law?
Unfortunately no. Civil Code have general provisions on marriage and family. The detailed regulations are in Marriage and Family Law. In 2014, Vietnam has passed new Law on Marriage and Family, where same-sex marriage is no longer illegal, but has not been recognized and enforced. We will need to continue advocating for same-sex marriage in the future.

10. If you had gender marker changed, am I allowed to marry with my lover?
Yes. Currently, the transgender people and their lovers are often regarded as people of the same sex on legal papers, so that they can not marry each other. With the new regulations, "Individuals who underwent surgery [...] have the personal rights consistent with new gender," means that they will have the rights and obligations in accordance with the new gender, including the right to marry the person of the opposite sex.

Thus, we can see that the provisions of new Civil Code on transgender rights are still far from perfect. The next plan is to ensure transgender rights will be implemented soon in reality. However, this really is a huge step forward, with the affirmation of the rights of transgender people.