Do we make a difference?
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOT) 17/5 is not only a day to honor the homosexual, bisexual and transgender community (LGBTIQ), but also an opportunity for larger communities to discuss anti-discrimination, show their respect to diversity and the value of every human being.
It has been nearly 04 years since Vietnam recognized the right to change gender (November 2015), and nearly 06 years since the fundamental changes in the Law on Marriage and Family had been made (2013). Specifically, the Vietnamese National Assembly had passed the revised law, with no clause prohibiting marriage between people of the same sex. Nevertheless, the LGBTIQ community in Viet Nam has done much more than that. We are just beginning the journey of reducing the social stigma against the LGBT community and promoting gender diversity in Vietnam.
Variants of the “new” discrimination
It is not possible to restrain someone’s subliminal instinct and form judgments about them based on their superficial characteristics. Once these characteristics become the standard for the society to treat a group/community, regardless of the difference between individuals, these judgments and behaviors are considered the act of discrimination.
There have been global reports, national indicators and numerous statistics on inequality and discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression in different regions and working environments in Vietnam. These quantitative indicators are informative but vague since they have not yet reflected the fact that people still hesitate to act on this persistent problem. They also failed to indicate the sophistication of the “new” discrimination in Vietnam and its cause. Discrimination not only directly affects the victim of the act but it also hinders any efforts to achieve tolerance and harmony in society.
Same-sex marriage remains a social challenge to Vietnamese traditions. Society might get used to the fact that two people of the same sex being in a romantic relationship, but society has not recognized their right to marry. Homosexual couples are assumed to have the same marital norms as their heterosexual counterparts. If a couple of the same-sex gets married/divorced, perhaps the judge would be very confused about each individual’s role in the family: the housewife or the breadwinner. There will be no boundaries between communities if we are treated in the same way, no matter what, society needs to keep its order, the majority need to be…more equal.
We already live in a society willing to speak up for the victims of discrimination in specific cases – the ones that can not speak for themselves (for example, Ho Chi Minh City University of Education only recruits female students that are at least 1m50 tall), but we need to raise our voices and demand an anti-discrimination act that advocates equal rights for all human beings.
“A beautiful name”
In early September of 2018, I received a response document to ‘Petition for change of name’ from the Justice Department of a district. The petition was filed by a Trans man who is over 18 years old and has a feminine birth name. In response, the state agency turned down the request to change his name, reasoning: this is “a beautiful, feminine name, suitable for female birth gender, so there is no reason to change it”.
A beautiful and feminine name will suit a woman. A physique and masculinity always suit a man. There are still laws that strive to protect such beauty prejudice, and it triggers the dignity of individuals, in hidden corners, we cannot see, and forces everyone to live such discrimination. At a higher level, these stereotypes, if they continue to be applied in the legal standards, will turn a minority community into outsiders.
The law must contain values of dignity and equality; honoring the diversity
International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia is a day to talk about Human Rights. The rights of the LGBT community, as well as other minorities, are actually implemented, considering two aspects: whether the law recognizes equality and non-discrimination or not, and the law The law educates the universal values of protecting human dignity and respecting the diversity of each entity.
The general trend of progressive lawmakers is that equality of rights before the law is increasingly being supplemented in many fields. However, the right to equality before the law only extends and recognizes more civil rights, but does not guarantee the absolute principles to protect human rights and human dignity. This is a limitation, since human rights have a broader notion of civil rights, and the problem is that if a person has limited citizenship (for example, unrecognized same-sex marriage), the human right persons – including equal rights before the law – will not be fully recognized and not fully protected. Equal marriage, therefore, is an opportunity to tell each other about love for all, and how different communities celebrate the diversity of life.
Fighting stigma, prejudice, and discrimination is not only a Vietnamese story. We can always read it somewhere, a nation that continues to impose cruel punishments on the LGBT community, a gay couple who refused to make wedding cakes during their marriage, a public judgment. same-sex marriage is opposed by the referendum – to protect the “values of the traditional family”. Anti-discrimination is also a key principle of countries to ensure equality in access to social resources, equality before the law and ensure the development of each country.
During the 3rd Universal Human Rights Review (UPR) last January, Vietnam continued to receive more than 10 recommendations from United Nations member states to promote the development of countermeasures. re-discriminate based on gender identity and sexual orientation, as well as improve regulations to protect and promote LGBT rights. This will continue to be an opportunity for not only the LGBT community, but also for outsiders to speak out about their rights, and to promote traditional strongholds to change to protect the dignity of every human being.
Đinh Hồng Hạnh
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