Changing hearts and minds – Vietnam is getting ready for Marriage Equality!

By June 20, 2024 Regional

Contributor: Ngo Le Phuong Linh
Director 
ICS Center, Vietnam


In 2013, a research on Vietnamese public opinion, only 37% participants expressed support for sam-sex marriage. Ten years later in 2023, this number increased significantly to 50% in the PAPI survey by UNDP, and 65% in another research by PEW Center.

While law reform might take decades to achieve visible results due to technical and political obstacles, social attitude speaks louder on how things are changing in the hearts and minds of the people, especially in such heavily Confucian influenced and somewhat conservative society in Vietnam. So how did it happen? Where are we on the journey toward Marriage Equality?

I DO re-launching event in 2022.
Source: https://www.facebook.com/toidongy.ido

CONTEXT AND THE EARLIEST MILESTONES

In the last 15 years, LGBT movement in Viet Nam has taken positive steps forward and got tremendous achievements such as: removing the ban on same-sex marriage; consulting on amending the Civil Code to allow transgender persons to legally change their gender; a government issued decree condemning conversion therapy and re-affirming that LGBT is not a disease; and providing spaces for civil society, including NGOs, LGBT groups, together with mass media, educational, private and state-related sectors, to discuss issues relating to LGBT rights, educate the public and advocate for policy and law reform.

2013 was a milestone for local activism – the first public campaign advocating for Marriage Equality in Viet Nam was organized by the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment (iSEE), the ICS Center (ICS) and the Group for a Positive Image of LGBT (6+). Right after that, the National Assembly passed the Law on Marriage & Family (2014) removing the ban on same-sex marriage, this revision has started a positive change in social attitude toward LGBT community. In the next 6 years, many same sex couples openly celebrated their wedding ceremony, some even made the news and received public support.

However, the fact that decision makers have removed the ban but failed to recognize the rights of same sex couples in the law, left a huge gap in the lives of LGBT people and put a large portion of the community at risk, including gay, lesbian and transgender people in same-sex relationships. Their rights to inheritance or adoption are also not recognized as a consequence.

RESUMING OUR FIGHT FOR LOVE

In December of 2019, the Marriage Equality Working Group (MEWG), established by ICS and iSEE, with the participations of LGBT leaders from community groups and provinces, had been working to restart “I DO” campaign alongside with the legislative process, with the goal to achieve the right to marry of same sex couples in the next revision opportunity of Marriage and Family law, which was hoped to occur in 2024 within the 10 years revision schedule.

One of the main strategies of the campaign was to engage and raise the supportive voice of the general public and other stakeholders in society, including business and education sectors, using social advocacy and social pressure to push for legal change. After 4 years of annual campaigning, MEWG and I DO have been:

  • Building platforms for genuine, diverse LGBT couple representation. From interviewing and sharing on our owned-channels with more than 100K followers, to documentary and public relation approaches to share on more traditional and neutral media channels.
  • Building allyship and opening up dialogues among private sector, universities, and media outlets through various communication, public and internal activities.
  • Showcasing social support for same-sex marriage via public events and online petition, getting more than 55,000 audited supporting signatures, hundreds of personal testimonials and stories, and made more than a hundred headlines.
  • Exploring allyship opportunities with socio-political organizations and government agencies through collaborative activities, data supporting and discussions.
Private organizations that joined hands with us in I DO 2023
source: toidongy.vn

Despite the visible increasing social support, due to technical reasons the law revision opportunity did not come as hoped, the Marriage and Family law did not make it to the national lawmaking schedule for 2024-2025 period.

NATIONALLY RE-STRATEGIZING

Starting from 2024, with the longer-term vision to advocate for same-sex marriage in the next lawmaking schedules within 2025 to 2030, MEWG has built a more comprehensive and strategic plan, with diverse approaches to not only working on public campaign, but also building more meaningful allyship and sustainable movement. Because we understand that even though we’ve been appreciating every small step forward, and Vietnam now has just gotten ready for marriage equality more than ever before, this has never been and would never be a short nor easy journey.

Finally, as data and reality has been proving, Marriage Equality is not just a good thing to do ethically, it’s one of the best right things to do for the growth of a country in cultural, economic and social aspects. This is not just the majority being inclusive of one specific minority group, it’s a way for Vietnamese people and us as a nation to showcase our traditional values of harmony, compassion and solidarity.

The researchers group from Vietnam Center for Economic and Strategic Studies (VESS)

“Recognition of same-sex marriage specifically and the society inclusion for LGBT people in general will improve their physical, mental and social health, from there will increase the labor productivity and create significant economic changes. In the most modest estimate, Vietnam’s GDP could increase from 1.65% to 4.36% per year.”


About the contributor:

Ngo Le Phuong Linh (she/her) started to serve as ICS Center’s Director since 2019. Despite having a different background which is a hospitality management degree, she pursued her passion for non-profit and human right activism at a very young age. Since 2015, started as a volunteer and then full time staff of ICS, she has involved as leading roles in many topics such as: organizing VietPride – the biggest annual LGBT event in HCM city, or leading Work with Pride – the first initiative of that increase the engagement of business sector and promotes workplace equality and inclusion for LGBTI in Vietnam, which also includes Labor Code advocacy to have better protection for LGBTI employees. 

On the international level, Linh is an alumni of the US Government-sponsored YSEALI program; and was elected as the youngest member of the Board of Directors of ILGA Asia, representing the Southeast Asia area, she served 2 consecutive terms with a total of 5 years. Linh also led and won the bid to bring the first international LGBTI right-based conference, the ILGA Asia Conference, to Vietnam and then successfully organized with her team in 2022. Additionally, she is also volunteering in the Program Advisory Board of Open For Business. 

Two of her personal and also professional goals are to achieve marriage equality in Vietnam, and to raise the voice of lesbian and bisexual women in the traditional gender equality agenda.


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