Showing posts with label Vietnamese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnamese. Show all posts

June 26, 2017

Singapore Resist While Vietnam is Become One of The Most LGBT Friendly Countries in Asia


 Vietnam Celebrates under the rain





LGBT rights in the global financial capital are murky at best, while Vietnam has been pegged as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in Asia.

A global metropole, the small, tropical island of Singapore is the hub of crypto-capitalism: a country flanked by towering skyscrapers that boast of "progress" and "advancement," but where fighting for LGBT rights is still a tall order.
While queer marriages are prohibited, changing one’s gender is allowed — underscoring the country’s schizophrenic policies with regards to sexual rights, which palter about progressivism, but leave much to be desired. 

LGBT activists are gearing up for continued challenges after the government tightened rules this year for the upcoming Pride event, limiting the celebration that is already only allowed to take place once a year.
From ambiguity about their legal rights to facing censorship in the media, the terrain of LGBT equality in the global financial capital is nonexistent at worst, and murky at best.
Legal ambiguity and inequality for LGBT Singaporeans
For bisexual lawyer Indulekshmi Rajeswari, the country “does not recognize LGBT rights at all.”
“In fact, sex between mutually consenting men is still criminalized, through the infamous section 377A of the Penal Code,” she told teleSUR.
“There are no anti-discrimination laws in any sphere, including housing, employment, healthcare and so on. LGBT couples and families live in a legal limbo,” she continued.
According to Rajeswari, while queer and trans people pay the same taxes, they are not given the same access to government housing or tax breaks that “married, heterosexual couples take for granted.”
The “vocal but small religious right and the government’s interest in maintaining the status quo”, she explained, explains why LGBT Singaporeans continue to live in a state of legal ambiguity and inequality.
“Same but Different,” the new legal guide
In this arena of muddled rights, comes Rajeswari’s new guide titled, “Same but Different: A Singapore LGBT Legal Guide for Couples & Families.” Set to release July 8, the book will help LGBT Singaporeans navigate their legal rights.
"I knew my friends were asking me because they did not know other LGBT-friendly lawyers," Rajeswari told teleSUR of her inspiration to begin the guide in November 2015.
The crowd-funded project that has a team of 18 volunteers, delves into the "legal ambiguities" surrounding marriage and cohabitation contracts, property, wills and inheritance, medical decisions and children. 
The guidebook, to be published and distributed to LGBT organizations throughout the country, will also be made available for free online, filling a "much-needed resource gap" for social workers and other LGBT advocates alike.
"For example, we could not find any publicly available guidance on what is required to change one's gender legally," pressed Rajeswari.
"This is one of the many examples of the type of legal ambiguities that LGBT people in Singapore face. It is a type of ambiguity that is often hidden or rarely discussed," she said to teleSUR.
Parties versus policies
The guidebook is to come in handy as the community faces ongoing assaults on their rights.
For the past 8 years, LGBT Singaporeans have congregated in Hong Lim Park, “the only venue in Singapore where public protests are allowed," for Pink Dot, the annual Pride rally.
But this year’s event has been mired in controversy — with recent changes to the country’s Public Order Act barring foreigners from attending.
Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam told Parliament last month that the changes were made to prevent foreigners from “advancing political causes in Singapore.”
“As a government, we don’t take a position for or against Pink Dot, but we do take a position against foreign involvement,” he had added. “The point is this is a matter for Singaporeans, Singapore companies, Singapore entities to discuss.” 
For Rajeswari, Pink Dot and other public displays of LGBT pride illuminate only a tiny reality.
“How gay-friendly or trans-friendly Singapore is, depends on who you are and what you want out of life. There are gay parties, there is a relatively vibrant scene and most people are not afraid of being arrested for being gay. If you just want to party and have a good time, Singapore might seem great to you,” she said.
“However, we are not allowed to have Pride parades (except the annual Pink Dot gathering). Freedom of speech and freedom of association is in general very curtailed, so that applies to the LGBT community too. If you want any kind of rights, then Singapore starts looking less attractive,” she added.
Vietnam, one of the most LGBT-friendly places in Asia
In contrast, elsewhere on the continent, Vietnam has emerged as one of the most LGBT-friendly country advancing on a number of fronts in the last decade, leading NBC News to say in January 2015, “On gay rights, Vietnam is now more progressive than America."
That year, its ruling Communist Party of Vietnam removed a ban on same-sex marriage and also allowed those that undergo gender reassignment surgery to register under their preferred gender. At a hearing leading up to the legalization, Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Viet Tien proposed that same-sex marriage be made legal immediately, "As human beings, homosexuals have the same rights as everyone else to live, eat, love, and be loved," according to the Atlantic.
It was a decade prior to these achievements that Nguyen Hai Yen, searching for community and acceptance in a place still mired by homophobia and transphobia, turned to the internet.
“I became the administrator of a lesbian online forum,” Yen told NBC OUT. “The internet community was a safe space for us to meet, so we met each other and discussed things like dating or coming out.”
The year was 2004, and while there was an emerging network of online forums and websites for lesbians, gay men, gay teens and transgender women that had a large following, they remained separate and disconnected.
“The issue of rights for the broader LGBTQ community was never mentioned,” said Yen.
But things changed in 2008, when the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment, a civil society organization in Hanoi, invited Yen and other online forum administrators to discuss the idea of building a more focused community.
“iSEE decided it should be the community’s voice that brought up their own issues,” Yen explained. 
March for marriage equality in 2015.
Just a few, short years later, Vietnam is set to celebrate its fifth year of pride celebrations in 36 provinces across the country.
“The first generation of leaders is now in their late 20s or 30s,” iSEE Chairman Le Quang Binh said. “They are (now) building the second generation of leaders … (who) are young, passionate, committed and daring.”
Still, despite the progress, the LGBTQ community still has its fair share of challenges that stem from deep-seated prejudices against them. But the movement fighting that has left even those involved with it for years, stunned. 
“The LGBTQ movement in Vietnam has had this really strange and unprecedented opportunity to grow so fast — it is head spinning,” Nga L.H. Nguyen, who joined the movement four years ago and is now on the organizing board of Viet Pride, told NBC OUT.
LGBT Singapore resists
Back in Singapore, Rajeswari is hopeful, recounting victories elsewhere in the region. Despite the battles, she notes the resilience of her communities.
“We have an LGBT-affirming counseling agency, Oogachaga, who do the very important work of helping LGBT people with their mental health and also work related to safe sex. We have organizations such as Sayoni, a queer women’s group, which does a lot of advocacy and welfare work,” she said. “This is not an exhaustive list, but we do indeed have a vibrant scene with lots of group working on their individual concerns.”
“(Our) community continues to be resilient by creating resources to help empower the community,” she told teleSUR.

January 8, 2015

Vietnam Abolishes Ban on Same Sex Marriage




Photographer: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on Aug. 3, 2014 shows some same-sex couples sitting in the compound... Read More
Vietnam taking the lead in gay rights in Southeast Asia by abolishing a ban on same-sex marriage has medical doctor Thuan Nguyen planning a wedding ceremony with his boyfriend of two years. 
“I am ready to have a wedding,” he said. “Many, many young people in love are optimistic about the acceptance of gay weddings.” 
The revised law, while not officially recognizing same-sex marriage, places the communist country at the forefront of countries in Asia becoming more accepting of gay people. The National Assembly’s move is expected to attract more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers and boost Vietnam’s $9 billion tourismindustry. 
“This makes Vietnam a leader in Asia,” Jamie Gillen, a researcher of culture geography at National University of Singapore, said by phone. “Singapore just reaffirmed its ban on homosexual behaviors. Vietnam is trying to pitch itself as a tolerant and safe country.” 

Abolished Fines 

Vietnam’s new marriage law, which went into effect New Year’s Day, abolished regulations that “prohibit marriage between people of the same sex.” 
Same-sex marriages can now take place, though the government does not recognize them or provide legal protections in cases of disputes. The government abolished fines that were imposed on homosexual weddings in 2013. 
No other country in Southeast Asia has taken as big a step toward accepting same-sex marriage as Vietnam, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said by phone. 
In Thailand, efforts to address same-sex laws have stalled since the ascent of the military government in May, while Cambodia, Burma and Laos have not put the issue on its legislative agenda, he said. The Philippines is considering laws to ban same-sex marriage. Indonesia and Malaysiahave “entrenched discriminatory views” against homosexuals and in Brunei, “the new penal code sets out that those seeking to be involved in gay marriage could face whippings and long prison sentences,” Robertson said. 

Foreign Visitors 

Vietnam, which looks to boost an economy that has expanded less than 7 percent annually for seven consecutive years, reduced visa requirements for seven Asian and European countries Jan. 1 to make the country more attractive to overseas tourists. Foreign visitors to Vietnam are estimated to have increased to 7.9 million last year from 7.6 million in 2013, according to government data. 
“It is getting out that Vietnam is a more friendly place” toward gay people, John Goss, director of Utopia Asia, a gay resources website based in Bangkok, said by phone. “Gays in Vietnam are certainly becoming more open. It has not ruffled any feathers as it might in some other countries in Southeast Asia. It will have a positive effect on tourism.” 
Vietnam is already seeing an influx of LGBT travelers from abroad, said Nguyen Anh Tuan, owner of Gay Hanoi Tours, which has seen bookings increase by as much as 50 percent in the past year. 
The new law “indicates to everyone that Vietnam is opening up more and welcomes everyone,” he said. “Vietnam is changing very quickly. There are bigger gay communities and gay events.” 

Tourism Impact 

Twenty-nine percent of the LGBT community in the U.S. take at least five leisure trips a year, according to research by San Francisco-based Community Marketing Inc. The community generates $100 billion in tourism business in the U.S. alone and many make overseas trips, according to the company. Forty-eight percent of gay households have annual incomes of at least $75,000, it said in its 2014 tourism survey. 
“Many of them have double incomes,” Goss said. “Gay travel tends to be recession-proof.” 
Vietnam’s lawmakers, who initially considered recognizing same-sex marriage, believed the country wasn’t ready for it, said Luong The Huy, legal officer at the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment in Hanoi, a Vietnamese non-governmental organization that advocates for minority rights. 
“They say the society in Vietnam needs some time to accept gay and lesbians in general,” he said. The revision in the law signals to the country that “same-sex marriage is not harmful to society,” Huy said. 

Vietnamese Perceptions 

Vietnamese perceptions of gays may also change with the December arrival of U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, along with his husband, Clayton Bond, and their son, Huy said. 
“He promotes a very good image of a very successful person who is gay,” Huy said. “We could get more support from civil society in Vietnam because the American ambassador is gay.” 
Vietnam’s leaders allow gay organizations to be established and last year permitted a gay pride bicycle ride with rainbow flags in Hanoi, even as the government cracks down on political dissent, Robertson said. More than 150 Vietnamese dissidents are in detention, according to Human Rights Watch
Granting gays more freedoms is a way to blunt a bad human rights record, Joerg Wischermann, a researcher at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies, said in an e-mail. 
Nonetheless, Vietnam’s marriage law revision “is something extraordinary in a region in which many countries have deeply conservative societies,” he said. 
Nguyen, 43, the Hanoi doctor, said gay Vietnamese want to push for the legal rights marriage confers on citizens. When a gay couple ends their relationship, or if one were to die, there is no legal framework for how to split assets, he said. 
“The government doesn’t have problems with equal marriage,” Nguyen said. “It doesn’t have to do with the political system. This is determined by public opinion.” 
To contact the reporters on this story: John Boudreau in Hanoi at jboudreau3@bloomberg.net; Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen in Hanoi at uyen1@bloomberg.net
To contact the editors responsible for this story: K. Oanh Ha at oha3@bloomberg.net Lars Klemming

December 10, 2013

American Viet-Gay Community Fight Being Marginalized by their Own


Emboldened Orange County gay rights activists demand change
Hieu Nguyen, right, a founding member of the gay rights group Viet Rainbow of Orange County, speaks with Garden Grove Mayor Pro Tem Dina Nguyen during a break in a City Council meeting in September. Hieu's group has emerged as a militant front and a platform for educating immigrants in Little Saigon, a community that rigidly clings to tradition. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times / September 10, 2013)

 

Hieu Nguyen and fellow protesters stood on the sidewalk holding signs and waving an enormous rainbow flag as the traditional Vietnamese parade passed them by.
Barred from the Lunar New Year's event — and largely ignored in their own community — members of the fledgling gay rights group decided it was time to stop playing nice.
They took training sessions with established LGBT groups, sought out legal strategy from veteran gay rights defenders Lambda Legal and attended workshops.
Now emboldened activists are flexing their muscles and demanding change in Little Saigon, a sprawling immigrant community that has dragged its feet on coming to terms with basic gay rights issues.
"This is not the Rosa Parks era," said Nguyen, a Garden Grove social worker. "I'm not sitting at the back of the bus anymore."
The newly formed Viet Rainbow has emerged as a militant front and a platform for educating immigrants in a community that rigidly clings to tradition.
There is a chapter for parents. There is a scholarship for LGBT students. And there is a resolve to march in the upcoming annual Tet parade.
When organizers of the colorful celebration, which winds along the main boulevard in Little Saigon, put Viet Rainbow on notice that LGBT individuals would also be barred from the Feb. 2, 2014, parade, supporters warned that their exclusion this time would come at a price.
Peter Renn, an attorney at Lambda Legal, which has spent decades fighting for LGBT causes, said banning the group could be a financial bloodletting for organizers once gay rights leaders put pressure on sponsors.
"This issue isn't going to go away. Organizers will be called out. They will hear the demands — there's no way to avoid it," Renn said.
"This blatant act of discrimination will not be left unchallenged," added Wilson Cruz, spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "If Tet parade leaders want to truly celebrate this day, they must do so by acknowledging and celebrating with the entire community."
Still, it may be an uphill struggle.
Some leaders in Little Saigon, which stretches across central Orange County and is the largest Vietnamese American community in the nation, suggested that some immigrants are not ready to welcome LGBT men and women, especially when they openly show affection.
"I counseled them. I told them that when they carry banners, when they position gay rights as human rights … that this issue is too new for the community," said Hung P. Nguyen, a member of the South Vietnamese Marines Veteran Charities Assn., which cosponsored the 2013 parade.
"Don't impose," he said. "The reaction of the community will be to strike back."
At the core of the impasse, some cultural experts said, was a set of customs drawn from Confucianism, including the belief that a person should sacrifice his life, if necessary, to uphold his traditional views on morality.
Parade organizers were furious last winter when members of the then-fledgling Partnership of Viet LGBT Organizations took them to court in an effort to force their way into the event. The rights group lost, but organizers said they were left to pay thousands in legal bills.
"We respect their choice, but this is not our tradition," Ha Son Tran, vice president of the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California, said before the start of the 2013 parade. Gay rights, he added, are "not like freedom of speech."
Tracy Nguyen doesn't see it that way. She joined Viet Rainbow because her son is gay and she wanted to stand with him.
"I tell them: 'Consider us your parents. We care about how you feel.' I am very protective of them because I've seen that demeaning look they get from community elders," she said. "No one should be viewed that way."
After being forced from the 2013 parade, gay rights organizers in Little Saigon dug in by forming Viet Rainbow of Orange County and training with the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. The group is applying for nonprofit status and has been coached on how to recruit members and raise money.
"With the Viet groups, we're still not there yet," said Cathy Lam, a Vietnamese American Nongovernmental Organization Network staffer who advised Viet Rainbow members. "We're still dealing with adults who say, 'If I hang out with you guys, would I eventually become gay?'
"Many people in the community think it's a disease," Lam said. "They don't know the role biology plays in our lives."
Hieu Nguyen, the Viet Rainbow leader, said his team was focusing on advocacy and pushing for inclusion in cultural and community events.
"We can have our own parade, but that's not the point," he said.
"The point is coming together as a community. We're not less than — we're part of this community. And for a long time, we were silent. But not anymore.”

By Anh Do

 



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