Hanoi – Being gay is not a disease, Vietnam has told its doctors, as the country asked medical workers to stop discriminating against the LGBTQ community. Campaigners told AFP on Tuesday that the statement was a major step forward for LGBTQ rights in the Southeast Asian nation, where gay, bisexual and transgender people have long felt marginalized.
In an official document released last week, the Ministry of Health said that “homosexuality cannot be ‘cured’, does not need to be ‘cured’ and cannot be changed”.
It urged medical professionals to have “respect” for gender and sexual orientation after receiving reports of doctors claiming they can treat gender minorities.
“Don’t treat homosexuality, bisexuality or being transgender as a disease,” it said.
Although Vietnam is seen as relatively progressive on LGBTQ issues compared to some other countries in Asia, misinformation about sexual orientation and gender identity is widespread.
According to a Human Rights Watch report published in 2020, some children are taught by both teachers and parents that being gay is a mental illness.
Nguyen Thi Kim Dung, an officer at Vietnam’s Center for Community Development Initiative Support, said some young LGBTQ people were taken by their parents to doctors to try to “cure” them.
Many also faced discriminatory questions when attending regular appointments, and were subjected to medical checks, she added.
But this “is an official acknowledgment to LGBT people that they have the right to go to medical facilities, and that they have the right to be treated equally,” she said.
Vietnam lifted its ban on same-sex marriage in 2015, but it stopped short of full legal recognition for these unions, and a long-promised law to allow legal gender reassignments has yet to materialize.
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