Vietnam says being LGBTQ is not an illness


Vietnam’s Health Ministry has joined the 21st century by affirming that same-sex attraction and being transgender are not illnesses and that being LGBT cannot be “cured”.

The ministry made the pronouncement earlier this month in new official instructions regarding LGBT people.

The rules stipulate the dissemination of information to medical doctors, staff, and patients at medical examination and treatment centers on the correct understanding of homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgender people.

While administering medical examinations or treatment for LGBT patients, health workers must ensure gender equality and respect to avoid discrimination and prejudices against these groups.

Medical staff also cannot consider homosexuality, bisexuality, and being transgender an illness and may not interfere with nor force treatment upon these groups of patients.

The directives state that “the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed that homosexuality is entirely not an illness, therefore homosexuality cannot be ‘cured’ nor need[s] to be ‘cured’ and cannot be converted in any way.”

Human Rights Watch said the ministry’s move brings Vietnam’s health policy in line with global health and human rights standards.

“Vietnam now joins the growing number of governments around the world affirming that same-sex attraction and gender identity are both natural variations of human experience,” said Kyle Knight, senior health and LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“Vietnam’s Health Ministry has boosted fundamental rights with this directive, and LGBT people now have increasingly firm grounding for expressing themselves without fear of negative reactions,” added Knight.

The directive follows a civil society-run petition that garnered more than 76,000 signatures and a letter from the WHO’s Vietnam office confirming that the “WHO firmly holds the view that any effort to convert the sexual orientation of a non-heterosexual person lacks medical justification and is morally unacceptable.”

Vietnam has made some progress on LGBT rights in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. In 2013, the government removed same-sex unions from the list of forbidden relationships, but the update did not allow for legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

In 2015, the National Assembly updated the civil code to make it no longer illegal for transgender people to change their first name and legal gender, but the revisions did not create a legal gender recognition procedure.

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