Vietnam recognises transgender people, but there’s a flaw in its law

The Vietnamese government’s decision to recognise transgender citizens in 2015 was met with excitement in the LGBTI and human rights activist communities. The law, which enshrines rights for trans people, elevated Vietnam to one of the most progressive countries in Asia on LGBTI rights, and saw the transgender community’s presence and voice in the country increase immensely.

The increasing tolerance towards trans people has also spilled over to other groups in the LGBTI community – but this is not yet a happy ending. Under the 2015 law, individuals who have changed their gender have the right to apply for a change of civil status affairs with their “personal rights in accordance with their changed gender” protected.

But in order for the law to be enforced, the “Law on Gender Affirmation” bill must be discussed and passed by the National Assembly, the country’s legislative body. The bill covers a number of issues, including setting requirements for gender-affirming applicants as well as requirements for individuals and organisations performing psychological and medical interventions. Gender affirmation, as stated in the bill, is the process of medically changing a person’s biological gender to bring it line with their gender identity.

The National Assembly meets twice a year; the bill was not reviewed at the first session, and it is unlikely to make an appearance at the second, said Saigon-based lawyer and activist Dinh Hong Hanh, as it is not included on the publicly available list of draft laws set to be reviewed this year.

Until the 2015 law is actualised, the trans community still has no protection from discrimination and prejudice in a country characterised by long-held gender stereotypes. Members of the community also deal with difficulties changing their civil status to match their gender, banking, travelling by plane, or having medical check-ups, according to Hanoi-based trans men community organisation It’s T Time.

“Since you look different than what your papers say you are, completing these tasks is very difficult,” said the organisation’s founder Chu Thanh Ha. Dinh, the lawyer, said many transgender people came to her with problems changing their names to match their identity. The law’s uncertain status not only prevents them from making this change, it also affects legal departments’ functionality, she added. Read more via SCMP