As part of the EIL programme you must complete an ‘Action at Home’ project that connects Ireland with the country you travelled. I decided to do my project on LGBT rights in Vietnam and contrast and compare this with Ireland.
Relating this to Goal 10 of the Sustainable Development Goals “Reduced Inequalities”, I feel it is so important that we remember while LGBT may right now be great in the western world, we have a duty to remember many other parts of the world aren’t as tolerant. As a gay man myself I was very interested to learn about what it was like to be gay in Vietnam.
At first glance Vietnam seems to be a good place to be gay, it isn’t illegal and never has been. While gay couples can technically marry, same sex marriages aren’t legally recognised by the state, interestingly, gay conversion therapy is banned in Vietnam, while it is not in Ireland.
However, as I delved deeper, I discovered that socially it was very different. I had the opportunity to speak to Sean and Ayako who work with the UNDP in Vietnam and part of their remit focuses on LGBT issues in the country. It seems while politically it’s a topic that sees little interest, socially it is very much a taboo. Families are horrified of having a child that is gay. It is expected each child will go on and marry and have children and look after their parents and if your child is gay this just doesn’t match the expectation.
Therefore, the vast majority of gay people in Vietnam are not living openly and live secret lives. Some, even keeping their partner a secret from their family and work colleagues and only very close friends knowing. One individual I spoke to described that when his parents discovered a diary about him having a crush on a boy in his class, they brought him to the doctor and put him on medication. It only stopped when he said to his parents that he did not have ‘those kind of feelings’ for boys anymore. Today, years later, his current boyfriend remains a secret.
Homophobic abuse in schools is also a huge issue, it was very sad to learn all of this and it seemed to me, that Vietnam is like Ireland twenty years ago. Being gay in Ireland in the ‘90s was still a taboo. It’s only in the last few years we have seen greater acceptance. I hope things will progress further in Vietnam just like things have here.
Focusing on Goal 10, we as a global community have to ensure we reduce inequalities for LGBT people across the globe, it is easy to forget when you live in a tolerant country that other parts of the world aren’t as accepting.
About Author: Name: Domhnaill Harkin Award: Gold SDG: 10