LGBTI education and transgender issues at the forefront in Hanoi to help end discrimination

The rights of the LGBTI community are beginning to be understood and protected in Vietnam.

In 2015, the National Assembly of Vietnam passed the Revised Civil Code legalizing the rights of transgendered people to change their gender marker after gender reassignment surgery. Despite this advancement, LGBTI people are still subjected to stigma and discrimination in the family, workplace, school and society:

“That day was very hectic, beating and knifing. My dad took a sword and declared: “Either you or I must die, you must choose.” I must follow my parents’ wish. I am used to my secret life. My grandparents always push me into marriage. Once I brought a book “I am homosexual” hoping they would read. They tore it apart and burnt it.”

- Gay, 25-34 (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

In a study of school violence, 40.7% of LGBTI people have experienced violence and discrimination in schools and 13.2% were abused by faculty. Conversation and support are needed to help end discrimination.  The Embassy of Canada to Vietnam and Institute for Studies of Society, Economy, and Environment (iSEE) hosted a two day seminar on LGBTI education and transgender rights with Canadian guest speaker Ty Smith.

Sharing Canada’s experience

As part of a speaker series in the region, Ty Smith from the University of Toronto, and currently working as the Director of Programs and Service for Égale Canada Human Rights Trust, spoke on transgender issues and LGBTI education in Canada.

The series included discussions with scholars from Vietnam National University’s School of Law, leaders and members of civil society organisations currently working on LGBTI rights in Hanoi.  This highlighted Vietnam’s current law on transgender rights and the need for further change towards a closer alignment with Canada’s policy, law, and enforcement measures:

“Trans identity and experiences are not all the same. Policies and practices grounded in the principle of self-determination allow for diversity in gender identity and embodiment.”

- Ty Smith, Director of Programs and Service for Égale Canada Human Rights Trust

The speaker’s series was followed by a presentation on the “Rainbow School Movement by LGBTI rights activist from NextGEN Ha Noi, a prominent local network. The audience was engaged, seeking to learn more from Canada’s experience on this issue – both in policy and practice, and inspired by Canada’s vision:  

“As a society, we have taken many important steps toward recognizing and protecting the legal rights for the LGBTI community – from enshrining equality rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the passage of the Civil Marriage Act. There remains much to be done, though. Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination, and violence for being who they are. This is unacceptable.”

- The Right Honourable, Justin Trudeau

Also inspiring, in her closing remarks, Ambassador Kitnikone emphasized the importance of LGBTI education:

 “The more you know about LGBTI education, the more you can help make schools, workplaces, and other social spaces LGBTI friendly. Discrimination is often a result of lack of knowledge; this confirms once again the important role of LGBTI education in ending violence and discrimination against LGBTI people.”

Canada a proud leader

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made history when he became the first sitting prime minister to attend Pride parades in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Canada continues to be a proud leader in the advancement of human rights lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Canada and abroad.

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