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Transgender people concerned over sex reassignment legalization in Vietnam

Saturday, November 28, 2015, 13:57 GMT+7
Transgender people concerned over sex reassignment legalization in Vietnam
ICS representative Huynh Minh Thao (first right) looks on while transgender people share their stories during a press meeting at ICS headquarters in District 4, Ho Chi Minh City on November 27, 2015.

A number of Vietnamese transgender people have been concerned about how a recent revised law that recognizes of the right to sex reassignment will affect them.

The concerns were shared at a press meeting held by ICS Center, an organization that supports the LGBT community's rights in Vietnam, in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

The event was organized after Vietnam’s law-making National Assembly on Tuesday approved a revised law that includes a new provision of recognition of the right to sex reassignment, or to become transgender.

The amended Civil Code, with 689 articles, will take effect on January 1, 2017.

According to the revised law, considered landmark legislation, individuals who undergo transgender changes will have the right to register under their new gender with personal rights in accordance with their new sex, based on regulations of the code and other relevant laws.

While expressing their happiness at their rights being accepted by the law, Vietnamese transgender people still have questions over the legalization which is considered the turning point of their life.

“The law has been passed and transgender people could change their names and register papers with their new gender. They will no longer be discriminated by other people and their life will be more peaceful,” Hai Minh, a transgender person, said at the event.

However, he is not sure if those who underwent partial sex reassignment – like only breast surgery or hormone replacement therapy – have the right to register under their new gender.

Huynh Minh Thao, representative of ICS, said the regulation “individuals who undergo transgender changes” needs revisions.

“The term ‘transgender people’ is a concept of gender identity,” Thao said. “It’s not about whether they undergo sex changes.”

Moreover, discrimination is also an issue that many transgender people care about.

“Besides the law, we should also raise public awareness to change people’s attitude toward transgender people whose rights are now recognized by the law,” Nguyen Thien Tri Phong, a transgender person, suggested.

“After the rights of transgender people are acknowledged, there should be legal protection to prevent discrimination at workplaces or in school,” Alex Truong, who has had nearly two years of hormone replacement therapy, added.

Local lawyer Nguyen Trung Truc, who also attended the Friday meeting, said discriminated people, no matter what gender they belong to, are protected by law if they could show evidence of discrimination.

The meeting also helped to address other concerns like who has the right to undergo sex reassignment, whether health facilities in Vietnam are able to perform sex change surgery, or when transgender people can undergo surgery or change their gender in papers in accordance with the law.

According to an incomplete estimation announced by ICS at the event, there are currently around 270,000 transgender people in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Studies of Society, Economics and Environment on 219 transgender people in August, 78.1 percent of them wanted to undergo sex change.

More than half of the remaining said they did not want to have the surgery due to legal issues.

Other reasons were financial constraints, fear of health problems or discrimination, and familial disapproval.

About 86.3 percent of transgender people wanted to change their name on papers and 86.8 percent thought they needed to change their name without undergoing sex change surgery.

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