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Aug 27, 2022 / 15:30

Int’l experts contribute to Vietnam’s Gender Affirmation Law

Law would help almost half a million people in Vietnam who identify as transgender to ensure that their dignity and human rights are respected

International experts have shared their experiences in transgender empowerment to help Vietnam in lawmaking toward the formation of Gender Affirmation Law which is on the way to the draft.

 Domestic and international participants at the workshop discussing rights of transgenders in Vietnam. Photo: UN Women 

Contributing to the lawmaking at a workshop held in Hanoi on August 26 are transgender activists namely Alba Rueda, Argentina’s Special Envoy for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Abhina Aher, an Indian transgender activist who has worked for transgender empowerment.

The experts, joined by more than 80 participants from Vietnam’s National Assembly, the highest legislative body, different ministries, and organizations, shared lessons in developing laws and policies related to transgender people.

The event, which was jointly held by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and Vietnam’s Center for Supporting Community Development Initiatives (SCDI), anticipates making contributions to bridging and to empowering the voice of the transgender community to get closer to the public and policymakers.

With multiple years of experience in formulating and implementing the 2012 Gender Identity Law in Argentina, one of the most progressive laws in the world on transgender people’s rights,  Alba brought new perspectives and viewpoints that require attention and prioritization to the draft Gender Affirmation Law in Vietnam.

 UN Women Representative in Vietnam Elisa Fernandez Saenz speaks at the event held in Hanoi on August 26. Photo: UN Women 

At the event, UN Women Representative in Vietnam Elisa Fernandez Saenz said she appreciated the efforts by the Ministry of Health in formulating the Gender Affirmation Law. “This represents the vision of the Vietnamese leadership, which is in line with international trends, ensuring the principle of “leaving no one behind” of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.”

Meanwhile, priorities were also raised from insiders’ perspective, with a view to making contributions to the draft Gender Affirmation Law in Vietnam.

As informed by the Ministry of Health, there are approximately 480,000 transgender people in Vietnam [In this writing, the term ‘transgender' is used to refer to any person whose gender identity differs from that person’s sex assigned at birth. A transgender person can identify themselves as a male, a female, a transgender male, a transgender female, can be a person of gender diversity or gender non-binary or as defined by other terms.].

Due to persistent stereotypes and biases in society, transgender people often face stigma and discrimination from society in various aspects, such as in performing medical procedures, administrative procedures, or applying for jobs. This requires public awareness raising as well as practical legal frameworks to ensure the rights of transgender people in Vietnam.

 There are almost half a million transgenders in Vietnam. Photo: Swedish Embassy in Hanoi

On November 21, 2015, the National Assembly passed the Civil Code (amended) recognizing the right to gender affirmation. However, as there is no specific legal framework for gender affirmation, transgender people in Vietnam still have to overseas or go to unlawful health facilities in Vietnam to carry out medical interventions, thereby causing enormous health and life consequences for transgender people.

After delays as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, at the end of June, the Ministry of Health reported to the Government on the applications for the draft law. If formulated and adopted or passed, the law will enable transgender men and women to legally transition in Vietnam. In an effort to ensure the comprehensiveness and effectiveness of this law, the voice of the transgender community plays a vital role.

According to Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam Ann Måwe and UNICEF Representative in Vietnam Rana Flowers, it is time for Vietnam to walk the talk on trans rights. They argued that on paper, Vietnam has taken an important step towards guaranteeing the rights of transgender people to have their gender identity recognized. Now it is time to promulgate the legal framework that will actually implement and enforce the relevant Civil Code article, which is still under development.

As the legislation to implement the relevant provisions and secure those rights in practice is still pending, the draft law currently underway must take into account the experienced reality of the estimated 480,000 people who identify as transgender in the country, the experts told The Hanoi Times.

In reality, transgender people in Vietnam are integral parts of families and communities, like any other family or community member, and yet they are prevented from participating in society in the same way and on equal footing. Therefore, the lack of legal recognition of their gender identity obstructs their effective participation in Vietnam’s society and labor force, and their access to health care.

“The goal for the almost half a million people in Vietnam who identify themselves as transgenders must be to ensure that their dignity and human rights are respected,” they emphasized.