A person holds up a rainbow flag displaying the words “Viet Pride” as people decorated with balloons prepare to take part in Vietnam’s first ever gay pride parade on a road in Hanoi on August 5, 2012.
Vietnam has scrapped regulations that fine same-sex couples who marry in what activists say is yet another move towards guaranteeing the rights of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
The move comes as part of a larger wave of progress for gay rights champions.
In July last year, the Ministry of Justice began openly discussing legalizing same-sex marriages. Though no concrete measures have been taken so far, the Ministry of Justice did start polling public opinion on this issue while considering amendments to prevailing marriage laws.
The results of that poll are not yet public but according to a study released last December by the Hanoi-based non-profit Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE), support for same-sex marriages was quite low at 37 percent, while 58 percent opposed it.
Also in December, the government began mulling whether or not to allow same-sex couples to legally cohabitate. Though nothing has come of that yet either, a draft proposal was issued last month that would have doubled the fine for same-sex marriages.
Under the draft decree that would have taken effect this July, homosexual couples that get married would have been fined VND200,000-1 million (US$9.55-47.77), twice the current fine introduced in 2000.
Gay rights activists lambasted the proposal, dismissing it as a “step back” for the protection of LGBT rights in a Confucian society where homosexuality was once labeled as taboo and even a “social evil.”
After a firestorm of criticism from the media and the public, authorities took note and did away with the fine. And by doing so, they have implicitly acknowledged the “nonsensical” implications of the draft laws, gay-rights activists say.
“This is another new step forward that is in line with Vietnam’s current trend [of] protecting the rights of LGBT people,” said Le Quang Binh, a sociologist who runs the iSEE.