“Same-sex love does exist, it is happening. Same-sex couples have been expressing love for each other and build a life together as they wish”

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On the occasion of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) (May 17), iSEE held a sharing session on the preliminary results of the study “Same-Sex Partnership 2019”. The study focuses on the relationship of same-sex couples, their opinions on laws and regulations related to same-sex partnership, as well as of the LGBT community’s desire and suggestion on legalizing same-sex marriage.

“It’s been 29 years since May 17, 1990, Vietnam has achieved many goals on LGBT rights but the legalization of same-sex marriage is not even one of those,” said Mr.Vuong Kha Phong, LGBT program officer at iSEE.

On the purpose of this research, Mr. Vu Thanh Long, researcher, said: “A similar study was conducted by iSEE in 2013. At that time, same-sex marriage was still considered a violation of social order. The law was amended in 2015 which allowed same-sex couples to perform weddings. However, their marriage was not recognized by the law. ”

The study combines two research methods: quantitative method (5999 completed records; median age: 21.9) and qualitative method (20 case studies in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City). The participants vary in age, gender identity and sexual orientation. 

Same-sex love and relationship

54.1% of online survey respondents said they are in a same-sex relationship, these relationships mainly lasted 1-3 years to date (44.4%). The length of the relationship partly dependents on age since the LGBT older adults tend to last longer in a relationship. Many couples have been together for 6-10 years and more.

41.3% of online surveyors were or are currently living with a lover/life partner. Most people decide to move in together when they truly love and are committed to their partner (80%). The second biggest reason is that they feel like moving toward a more serious stage of a relationship (57.6%).

However, life isn’t perfect as it seems, many online surveyors said they were or are in heterosexual marriages due to family and social pressure or consider sham marriage “Lavender marriage” acceptable (62.8% out of 94 people who have experienced heterosexual marriage). Moreover, 46 people decided to separate or divorce mainly because they are no longer happy together (41.3%) and they can’t stand being in a loveless marriage (54.3%). Mr. Long explained: “The dominant view in Vietnamese society is that heterosexual marriage is the destination of every human being. The social pressure on heterosexual marriage has taken a heavy toll on the LGBT community, regardless that many programs on the rights and presence of LGBT have been implemented to change this issue. ”

The difficulties and complexities of same-sex marriage

The majority of participants stated that having an unsupportive family is the biggest hardship (47.3%), followed by social discrimination against the LGBT(44.6%). In addition, LGBT couples face various legal obstacles as their marriage is not recognized by the law (32.4%). In particular, property relations are also a concern for couples because they share ownership on real estate, investment and valuable assets (cars, savings books, gold).

Serious problems arise for LGBT couples who want to have children and building a family. In online response form, there were 12 couples who adopt children, 16 people who foster their partner’s own children and 19 people with their stepchildren. 41.3% of them worry that their children will be affected by social discrimination against LGBT people. 34.8% had difficulty in guardianship and legal representation for their children. Besides, same-sex couples have to deal with these problems: registering a child’s birth with a partner of the same sex, registering a partner’s name on the child’s birth certificate as a legal parent and accessing to sperm donation to deliver a legal birth (for lesbian couples). 

In an in-depth interview in Hanoi, a homosexual man shared his concerns about having children in the future: “Will society’s stigma and prejudice affect my child when he/she grows up? Does he/she have any problems having two fathers and not a mother? Will there be any troubles when he/she attends school?”.

LGBT community’s aspiration

The LGBT community has addressed the need for same-sex marriage to be recognized and legalized. 89.2% demanded the right to perform a civil marriage, 99.8% wanted the law to recognize them as heterosexual couples. Besides, LGBT people suggested that the law should allow same-sex couples to adopt children (96.1%) and provide them with fertility treatment support(95.5%).

“Same-sex love does exist, it is happening. Same-sex couples have been expressing the love for each other and build a life together as they wish”, Mr. Long said. Having their own ways of organizing life and the future, homosexual couples are having a hard time due to their families’ expectations, social stigma, and the lack of legal recognition. This shows the importance of advocating for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Vietnam, because all love is equal, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Chu Lan Anh