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UN in Viet Nam's Statement on IDAHOT 2019

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Ha Noi (Viet Nam), 17 May 2019 – the United Nations in Viet Nam joins hands with all organizations around the world who are commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) on 17 May focused on Justice and Protection for All.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This principle, simple and powerful, was laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an agreed milestone vision setting out for the first time a set of universal human rights. The commitment to non-discrimination contained therein has since been reaffirmed by States across the world in numerous human rights instruments. It is also at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development's vision of a world free from discrimination and its pledge to leave no one behind. Delivering on this pledge requires addressing the lived experiences of LGBTI and other persons affected by multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.

In Viet Nam, there has been encouraging progress in this regard. In the second Universal Periodic Review in 2014, Viet Nam committed to enact a law to fight discrimination guaranteeing equality regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity, and Viet Nam has taken important legal steps towards protecting the human rights of LGBTI persons. The 2014 Marriage and Family Law was revised to remove the explicit prohibition on same-sex marriage. Moreover, the revised 2015 Penal Code extended protection to gay and bisexual men and transgender women by expanding the scope of what is considered as rape. Viet Nam is also examining how best to integrate comprehensive sexuality education in the education system. Finally, the amended 2015 Civil Code, which took effect in January 2017, provides the basis for individuals to register under a new gender marker.

Allowing legal gender marker change is important as civil registration is a key requirement for accessing basic services and ensuring equal rights under Viet Nam's Constitution. Without civil registration matching a person's gender presentation, transgender persons may be subjected to invasive questioning, deterring them from accessing necessary social and health services. In addition, transgender people face challenges and discrimination in relation to employment, housing and transportation when their gender marker on identification cards does not reflect their gender identity. While there is no official estimate of the number of people in Viet Nam with a gender identity different from their sex assigned at birth, it is expected to number several hundred thousand.

While an important step, the Civil Code amendment alone cannot provide for legal gender marker change without adequate implementing legislation. In this regard, the UN appreciates the commitment shown by the Government of Viet Nam in taking initial steps to develop the needed legislation including through public consultations with the LGBTI community and partners.

The UN in Viet Nam recommends that Viet Nam enact the necessary implementing legislation on legal gender marker change as soon as possible. In this regard, it is important to ensure that transgender persons seeking medical intervention but also those who do not as well as intersex persons identifying as transgender be allowed to change their legal gender marker. Moreover, the procedures for this should embrace the principle of gender self-determination. This entails allowing transgender people to legally self-define their gender identity without requiring medical diagnosis, surgeries or hormonal treatment, which is important to avoid pathologization of transgender persons, which creates an environment of discrimination and stigma.

On behalf of the United Nations in Viet Nam, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Mr. Kamal Malhotra, reiterates that "protecting the rights of LGBTI persons cuts across the Sustainable Development Goals and is key to Leaving No One Behind. Empowering the LGBTI community by enacting a law in line with international standards to recognize their legal gender and ensure justice and protection for them would further advance Viet Nam's already impressive progress in gender equality and equity for LGBTI people." In doing so, Mr. Malhotra concludes, "Viet Nam would further demonstrate, through law and in practice, its serious commitment to Leaving No One Behind consistent with Agenda 2030. The United Nations stands ready to support Viet Nam in this endeavour."

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