Is Vietnam ASEAN Next Hot LGBT Destination?

(Photo: LGBT Weekly)

A very tolerant view of the Vietnamese government towards gay and lesbian communities is likely to have a positive impact on LGBT tourism…

While Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia are showing worryin signs of rejecting -or at best looking down- at gay and lesbian communities, Vietnam is making a difference and is increasingly perceived as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries on the Asian continent.

It might sound paradoxical that a relatively strict communist country is not having any headache over its LGBT community. But from a pragmatic point of view, gay and lesbian are not really perceived as political threat to the government.

Vietnam’s LGBT scene is becoming increasingly open and outspoken and shows its  progressiveness. According to a report from local magazine Saigoneer, the past decade has seen many policy changes in favour of LGBT rights in Vietnam. Since 2015, the nation officially abolished regulations that prevent “marriage between people of the same sex.” During the same year, Vietnam also passed a law allowing trans individuals receive gender reassignment surgery and to register under their preferred gender. In 2017, an LGBT-friendly medical care facility opened its doors to LGBT communities, offering counseling, STI tests, HIV treatment and other services. Another one is due to open soon in Hanoi and more outlets are being planned in Vietnam other large cities.

The next step was announced a few days ago. Vietnam’s Ministry of Health is now working on a draft law that would create an official legal status for transgender people in the country. According to local newspapers, the draft Law on Transgender is being crafted by the ministry in consultation with the Ministries of Home Affairs, Justice and Foreign Affairs. It is expected to be submitted to the National Assembly for review in 2019. It is not anymore a utopia to think that  Vietnam could be the first ASEAN country to allow same sex marriage ahead of Thailand or -to no surprise- Singapore…

Recently Taiwan dared the leap by allowing same sex marriages and became the first Asian country to recognize equal rights to its LGBT community.

These elements have little to do with tourism but the degree of tolerance shown by Vietnam will certainly have a rippled effect on LGBT tourism. Viet Prides events have been celebrated annually across the country since 2012, attracting more and more foreign visitors. In 2016, the US Ambassador to Vietnam even joined the festivity. Ho Chi Minh City is likely to appear more and more into hot LGBT tourism destinations. Hopefully, this evolution would give some food for thought to other countries in the region and let them fully embrace the 21st century.