Showing posts with label Viet-Nam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viet-Nam. Show all posts

June 26, 2015

As the Clock ticks at the Supremes, the US Fights for Gay rights in VietNam




                                                                            
 U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius, right, and his husband, Clayton Bond,

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article25502872.html#storylink=cpy



As U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius deals with geopolitical concerns like China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea. But the personal can also be political when Osius introduces his husband, Clayton Bond, and speaks of their adopted children.
“We are here to celebrate family. Family is acceptance. Family is love,” Osius told a cheering throng at a U.S.-sponsored festival last week to promote the cause of gay civil rights across Southeast Asia. 
With the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans the last major outstanding case to be decided this term by the U.S. Supreme Court, some gay rights activists are saying that even a defeat would do little to slow the global momentum of their cause in part because of Obama administration policies -- and diplomats like Osius.
As a same-sex couple with children in diapers, Osius, 54, and Bond, 38, are in the vanguard of the civil rights movement known as LGBT -- shorthand for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. 
The Obama administration has pressed the LGBT cause internationally since a 2009 speech by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she declared “gay rights are human rights.” 
While an anti-gay backlash has grown in the Arab world, Russia and many other nations, the cause of gay rights has made strides globally that once seemed implausible. Voters in Ireland, a Catholic nation, recently endorsed same-sex marriage. Osius is pressing for greater LGBT acceptance in Vietnam, where the first gay pride parade took place four years ago.
Two years ago, the authoritarian government here decriminalized same-sex unions and is now considering broader LGBT issues. The nation has proven receptive to the ambassador’s unconventional family, said activist Le Quang Binh, director of the Institute of Social Studies, Economics and Environment.
“Their beautiful family strikes down many stigmas,” Binh said. “They excite many people, especially youth, to accept differences and respect other people’s choices and rights. Above all they inspire LGBT communities for fight for their rights.”
Osius, a career foreign service officer who helped open the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi in 1995 and is fluent in the language, is one of six openly gay ambassadors appointed by Obama, including one as a special envoy for human rights of LGBT persons. That’s five more gay ambassadors than the one each who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Of the current six, all but Osius were political appointees from outside the foreign service. 
Osius also championed gay rights within the State Department. When he entered the foreign service in the mid-1980s, the discovery of homosexuality would result in the revocation of security clearances. Many careers had been ruined before Osius and some colleagues founded a group known as Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies. In 1993, the State Department dropped discriminatory policies while, with greater attention, the Clinton administration applied the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mantra to the military.
Change came in fits and starts. When Clinton nominated Hormel Foods heir James Hormel as envoy to Luxembourg, Republican senators angrily refused to consider him, and Hormel ultimately assumed the post on a recess appointment. A few years later, when openly gay career diplomat Michael Guest was named ambassador to Romania, gays were impressed that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell introduced Guest’s partner with the respect accorded a spouse.
But when Guest retired in 2007, he pointedly criticized Powell’s successor, Condoleezza Rice, on the issue of benefits for same-sex couples. Guest said he “felt compelled to choose between obligations to my partner -- who is my family-- and service to my country.”
It was at a Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies gathering in 2004 that Osius first met Bond, who had come out a few years earlier at age 24. Two years later, they were married in Canada.
While Osius has a broad portfolio of concerns, Bond, who is on leave from the State Department and is working toward a law degree, has assumed the role of unofficial LGBT ambassador. 
Their family reflects diversity in other ways: Osius is white, Bond is African-American and their 19-month-old son and 3-month-old daughter are Latino.
The children are biological siblings. Bond said they were adjusting to life with an infant son when they received word that the boy’s birth mother was again pregnant and wondering if they’d consider a second child. 
Bond said they hope to set an example. On a recent day at the U.S. ambassador’s official residence in Hanoi, he proudly watched as workmen replaced the familiar signage on foyer restrooms from men and women to a new symbol for “gender neutral” -- an image that depicts a figure divided vertically with a skirt on one side and pants on the other. 
“It makes me so happy,” Bond said. “This is all about affirming people’s dignity.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article25502872.html#storylink=cpy

February 7, 2015

In Little American Saigon Communist is a hateful slur but not necessarily the word Gay



                                                                             
 40 years and the Vietnamese flag still Waves and the American is also there


Communist Vietnam has lifted a gay-marriage ban, but it can be a difficult subject to broach in Little Saigon

The rose oolong tea steamed on the table as regulars at the Little Saigon cafe debated politics, border disputes and the recent terrorist attacks in Paris — a running conversation in French and Vietnamese.

Then a man who had been listening to Radio Free Asia spoke up. "Brother, did you hear about Vietnam abolishing its ban on gay marriage?"

Silence enveloped the cafe.

In Vietnamese American community, 'communist' still a hateful, and expensive, slur
Gay rights and same-sex marriage are difficult conversations for those in the nation's largest and most prominent Vietnamese American community. Though attitudes are shifting among younger people, many — particularly those who fled South Vietnam as it fell to the communists — cling to what they call "the old ways."

"We remember the Vietnam of our childhood, when behavior like this is not allowed in public and you don't mention it inside or outside the home," said Cuong Manh Nguyen, 80, of Westminster.

It's ironic to some here that Vietnam — a communist nation that expatriates say shows little regard for basic human rights — has become the first Southeast Asian country to lift its ban on same-sex marriage.

The government abolished regulations that "prohibit marriage between people of the same sex" and canceled fines that had been levied on same-sex couples but stopped short of giving legal recognition to such unions.

The move is expected to bolster tourism by making Vietnam appear a more accepting country, insiders say.

"The government's move is a very positive sign that tolerance and understanding is developing," said Nguyen Anh Tuan, owner of Gay Hanoi Tours based in Vietnam. He said gay tourists from the U.S., northern Europe and Asia represent a large number of the travelers booking trips to Vietnam.

Abolishing the same-sex marriage ban is also an attempt to show progress on human rights, according to experts.

The government's move is a very positive sign that tolerance and understanding is developing.
- Nguyen Anh Tuan, of Gay Hanoi Tours
Phil Robertson, the Bangkok-based deputy director of Asia for Human Rights Watch, said Vietnam deserves credit for deciding to no longer treat LGBT people "as criminals for expressing their love." Still, he said, Vietnam continues to violate human rights "with alarming frequency."

Gay-rights advocates in Little Saigon, meanwhile, have spent years battling for equality.

After organizers barred a group of LGBT activists two years ago from marching in the annual Tet Parade — a celebration of the arrival of the Lunar New Year — protesters stood along the parade route in Westminster, waving signs and rainbow flags. Several politicians made a point of stepping away from the festivities to join them.

cComments
Interesting question, whether Viet Nam is courting world opinion and tourists, or whether the winds of change from its young people is paralleling what is happening in America and Europe. Certainly we hope it is the latter. 
Last year, organizers again told the group it could not participate. But they relented amid political pressure and the prospect of losing parade sponsors.

"I think we were the catalyst for a lot of change in community politics," said Hieu Nguyen, chair of Viet Rainbow of Orange County. The group's constant lobbying to get into the parade, Nguyen said, convinced some people to at least listen and consider their message of unity.
"Our leaders in this community must look at the younger generation and realize that there are different forms of diversity," he said. "The community is multilayered. We don't just have one political theme, we don't just vote one way. We have many identities and voices."

Back at the coffeehouse, the conversation continued.

Philip Phan, a Westminster salesman with three children, said he sees room for compromise but is unwilling to accept same-sex marriage.

"My kids tell me, 'Daddy, it's normal. We're old enough to understand these things and to be open.' But I tell them that no — it is not normal," said Phan, 54.

"What I believe is that in the course of life, we may come to accept this kind of marriage. But to legalize it? No way. To bring that kind of marriage to a church? To a temple? Or a courthouse? No, no way."


The customer sitting next to him, a former political prisoner in Vietnam, warned LGBT tourists to be wary if Vietnam rolls out the welcome mat.

"Don't believe anything these liars say or do," he said. "One day, any man is free to marry. The next day, he'll be locked up."

Phuong Nguyen, the owner of the shop, stayed out of the conversation.

"This is a gathering place for all kinds of talk," the mother of two said.

She emerged from the kitchen, where she had been cooking shaking beef platter, a house favorite.

“In every community, there should be a spot where people feel free to be themselves."


January 27, 2015

Something Strange is Happening at HO CHI MINH CITY-Gay Marriages, Quietly but Legally


                                                                          

In the past few months, Tang Ai Linh has noticed something new whenever she is logged on to Facebook: a lot more people have been posting photos and stories from gay weddings.
Vietnam has not legalized same-sex marriage, but a new law effectively decriminalizes it, putting Vietnam at the vanguard of gay rights in Southeast Asia. Many in the LGBT community interpret this as tacit permission for, at least, the ceremonial aspects of matrimony. Gay couples have responded by resuming nuptials, which had been on hiatus after repeated headlines about local officials breaking up gay weddings.
The 2000 Law on Marriage and Family explicitly banned marriage between people of the same gender. Other regulations, now repealed, allowed for fines of up to 500,000 dong ($24). Local authorities used these rules to disband wedding parties, sometimes for bribes, sometimes out of homophobia.
“But for some officials, it is not about the money,” said Linh, who has been with her wife for 14 years. “They do it just because they want to cause trouble for us.”
The updated marriage law, which took effect January 1, deletes the ban but says, “The State does not recognize marriage between people of the same sex.”
Confusion sets in
The ambiguity has caused some confusion among gay Vietnamese.
Nguyen Tan Phat is seen with his partner Le Hoang Minh (Photo - Sith Zam for VOA)Nguyen Tan Phat is seen with his partner Le Hoang Minh (Photo - Sith Zam for VOA)

“I don’t understand,” said Nguyen Tan Phat, who runs a photography and design company with his boyfriend. “The government doesn’t ban, but doesn’t recognize gay marriage, so what does that mean we can do? It’s really unclear.”
The revisions don’t confer new legal rights on gay people, but are seen as a mostly symbolic indicator of the direction Vietnam is heading. In contrast to conservative policies in nearby Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, leaders in Hanoi have surprised the world with their rapid embrace of the gay movement. Pride rallies have gone ahead with official sanction, while gay marriage has been actively debated among legislators.
Tran Khac Tung, director of the gay rights group ICS, said the government is even inviting gay rights organizations like his to law-drafting sessions, legitimizing them as an interest group during the policymaking process.
Observers say the reasons for this sea change - and for hopes that Vietnam will be the first country in Asia to legalize gay marriage - are self-reinforcing. To begin with, religious lobbies are frequently the most vocal opponents of gay marriage in many countries. But in Communist Vietnam, religious lobbies are largely blunted.
The second factor, according to advocates, is that unlike other human rights, authorities do not see same-sex marriage as a threat to their hold on power.
Lobbying for change
Because authorities mostly didn’t interfere with the LGBT community, advocates saw an opening. Tung said that just about every official he has spent time with has come around to supporting their cause.
Groups like ICS have also made strides in media coverage of and attitudes toward gay people; their success has attracted foreign and other funding, which has bolstered the lobbying efforts at the national level.
FILE - Newly married same-sex couple Tran Ngoc Diem Hang (R) and Le Thuy Linh (2nd R) share a moment during their public wedding as part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) event on a street in Hanoi, October 27, 2013.Something Strange Hapenning on HoFILE - Newly married same-sex couple Tran Ngoc Diem Hang (R) and Le Thuy Linh (2nd R) share a moment during their public wedding as part of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) event on a street in Hanoi, October 27, 2013.

The lifting of the gay marriage ban is just the latest sign of this success.
“I don’t think there’s so much that’s changed, except that it sends a message to the public of the position of the government, that it’s moving to more acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community,” Tung said.
He said the growing support from parents, the media, and the public overall “creates pressure” for the government to act.
“The same sex issue has been raised before,” Tung said, “but nothing happened because there was no backup from society.”
That’s no longer the case . Not unlike the United States, Vietnam appears to be on a path toward allowing same-sex marriage.
The new law this month marked just a small step down that path, but Phat said he was happy when he heard about it on Facebook.
“This is good news for the community,” Phat said. “I’m seeing that people are more open, more relaxed. In the past, coming out to family was really hard. But now it’s like a revolution, things are changing so fast.”

April 19, 2014

Vietnam Leading the Way in Gay Rights


Leading the Way: Vietnam’s Push for Gay Rights

 

Ngan and Huong have been together for 10 years. Although both are originally from the countryside, each moved to the more liberal Ho Chi Minh City for university. It was here, over an iced coffee between lectures, that they first met.
“We realized there was a spark straight away,” Ngan, aged 31, says. “It was like everything suddenly clicked into place.”
After secretly dating for a year, both eventually summoned the courage to come out to their respective parents. Ultimately, a lack of understanding from loved ones forced the couple to move in together in 2005. But despite living together for the last nine years, their relationship isn’t recognized under Vietnamese law.
This could all change come May, when Vietnam’s National Assembly concludes two years of deliberation on amendments to the Law on Marriage and Family. Legislators are set to make national history by enshrining into law provisions acknowledging the existence of gay couples for the first time. Although the government withdrew an option on marriage equality last year, the National Assembly may end up removing its current ban on gay marriage.
These developments have delighted and shocked gay rights advocates and made Vietnam a surprising torchbearer for LGBT issues in Southeast Asia. This is particularly remarkable when you consider that until 2000 it was illegal for gay couples to even live together.
“We were really surprised [the Communist Party of Vietnam] were putting LGBT issues on the agenda for public consultation,” says Mr. Huy, the legal officer at Vietnam’s peak social research body, the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE).
“It just shows the incredible progress that has been made in this area, even if it is less about providing rights for LGBT couples and more about making a legal headache go away.”
The legal headache that Huy is referring to would be the courtroom battles that have played out between separating same-sex couples. The judicial system has been flummoxed when it comes to resolving disputes over child custody, property and inheritance when there are no laws even recognizing the possibility of same-sex couples.
The nation’s judiciary demanded that the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) provide guidance on how to resolve these disputes. The opportunity arose during the Ministry of Justice’s review on the Law on Family and Marriage, which Vietnam’s legislative requirements stipulate must be revisited every ten years.
Behind the scenes, there has been tussle within the CPV over how to respond to gay rights issues. There is general consensus that the country’s Ministry of Justice and, to a lesser extent, Ministry of Health have been the most progressive. In 2012, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong spoke in support of same-sex marriage saying it was “unacceptable to create social prejudice against the homosexual community.
Observers say the most vigorous opposition has come from the Vietnamese Women’s Union, which perceives same-sex marriage as a threat to traditional family ideals. But the biggest challenge for the gay rights campaign is perhaps the most difficult: overcoming the status quo.
Homosexuality remains a taboo topic in the largely Confucian Vietnam and even some gay rights advocates accept that it may be too soon to legislate for marriage equality. Thuan Nguyen, Director of Hanoi’s LGBT Inclusive Business Development Initiative, argues the focus needs to be on changing traditional Vietnamese attitudes first.
“Many still believe it’s a mental illness or something to be ashamed of,” Thuan says. “And it was taken off Vietnam’s official list of mental illnesses in 2001.”
In 2002, Vietnam’s State-run media were describing homosexuality as a “social evil,” a description that was controversially rebuffed by a communist youth newspaper when it declared that “some people are born gay, just as some people are born left-handed.” A survey published in 2011 found that 87 per cent of respondents thought that homosexuality was a transmittable disease.
The first nationwide survey into public attitudes towards LGBT issues was published just two weeks ago. It showed that although there has been a reduction in opposition to same-sex partnerships, there is still a long way to go with half of survey respondents against both gay marriage and any legal recognition of same-sex cohabitation. The survey does show a shift in public sentiment, however, with the youth and college-educated firmly in favor of marriage equality.
The gay rights lobby accepts the fight for marriage equality needs clear majority support from the public before it receives CPV endorsement, which according to Thuan is more focused on shoring up its legitimacy. “LGBT rights are not seen as an urgent problem by the government. They are more concerned with economic growth, poverty reduction, jobs and stability.”
But that doesn’t mean that the CPV isn’t using a debate over same-sex marriage to its advantage. For a country often regarded as Southeast Asia’s most repressive state, there are advantages in having a very public conversation about a controversial issue.
“Over time the Vietnamese government has realized that this issue is scoring them points on the international stage,” according to Huy from the gay rights lobby iSEE.
Indeed, international human rights groups acknowledge that the CPV may be trying to exploit recent progress on gay rights as a means of “rainbow washing” its questionable record. Gay rights parades and public campaigns on marriage equality are allowed to occur, making this the one prominent area where there is substantive progress on freedoms of speech and assembly. All this is generating international goodwill, which pro-democracy advocates say the CPV is exploiting in order to distract from a recent crackdown on bloggers and dissidents, as seen with numerous high-profile arrests over the past year.
In the midst of this, gay rights campaigners are an unintended beneficiary of the communist regime’s suppression of organized movements and religions. Traditional opponents of marriage equality, such as religious groups, have been silenced over many decades. Despite the presence of nearly six million registered Catholics across the country, there have been no organized campaigns against gay rights that one would usually see in a liberal democracy.
Vietnam’s progress on gay rights stands in stark contrast to the retrograde laws adopted by its more conservative neighbors, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar, and the nation should be applauded for advancing the conversation, according to Boris Dittrich, Advocacy Director for LGBT Rights at Human Rights Watch.
“To take such a step [of recognizing domestic partnerships] would really help LGBT groups in surrounding countries – including China – that can point to this progress as an example. There would definitely be spillover effects in the region,” he says.
Although the National Assembly won’t legalize gay marriage this year, civil rights groups believe any legal recognition of gay relationships is a step towards greater understanding of LGBT issues, according to Tung Tran, who heads the “I Do” campaign by gay rights lobby ICS.
“We want the legalization of same-sex marriage to be taken into consideration but in the meantime we need some forms of legal protection for cohabiting same-sex couples,” says Tung.
“At the grassroots level we are getting strong support for equality but it isn’t clear from our sources [that this extends to] the higher levels of government. I would hope that they take the right step and provide the legal foundations for cohabiting couples.”
Having this legal recognition means a great deal for couples like Ngan and Huong. They don’t want to be trailblazers – all they want is to be treated the same as any straight couple.
“We’ve lived together for nine years now and we want to be together forever,” says Huong. “I want our love to be recognized as equal.”
While Vietnam is making strides on LGBT issues, it doesn’t appear that lawmakers will take the bold step of endorsing marriage equality. Couples like Ngan and Huong will have to fight that battle in 10 years time, when the National Assembly next reviews the Law on Marriage and Family.
David Mann is a Hanoi-based freelance journalist.

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