Vietnam says homosexuality ‘not a disease’ in win for gay rights

Vietnam says homosexuality ‘not a disease’ in win for gay rights

The Health Minister in Vietnam has officially declared that homosexuality is “not a disease” following lobbying by LGBTQ+ activist groups.

An official announcement was issued to all provincial and municipal health departments after the Minister claimed to have received information about some healthcare providers offering “cures” for homosexuality.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Phong Vuong, the LGBTI rights program manager at The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy, and Environment (iSEE) said, “This announcement that being LGBT is not a disease and condemning the practice of conversion therapy, this is like a dream”.

He continued, "We never thought something like this would happen, and certainly not coming from the most trusted source of medical information in Vietnam. I think the impact on queer youth will be very, very significant."

Taking into account that the World Health Organization (WHO) has removed homosexuality and transgender people from the International Classification of Diseases, the guideline set out five main guidelines to protect the LGBTQ+ community from harmful practices.

The guidelines suggest that all medical providers should increase education about "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people." It also notes that LGBTQ+ individuals should be treated equally and their sexual or gender identity should not be considered a medical condition. Involuntary interventions should be prohibited, and all mental health services should only be provided by professionally trained experts in sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In addition, the guidelines call for increased monitoring and inspection of medical facilities involved in the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Vuong explained, “This is important in the way that it affirms that being LGBT is not something you can fix. When a queer child gets taken to a medical facility … if they know about this, it can be used to defend themselves.”

The announcement comes following months of intensive lobbying by iSEE, calling on the World Health Organisation in Vietnam to demedicalise homosexuality. 

As well as petitioning WHO Vietnam to officially affirm their stance, the group devised an innovative campaign called ‘Leave with Pride’. 

For the ‘Leave with Pride’ campaign, iSEE worked with collaborators to create a video campaign posing the question: if being queer is a disease shouldn’t LGBTQ+ people be able to apply for sick leave?

Whilst the announcement by the Vietnam Health Minister is being hailed as a landmark step towards achieving equality for the country’s LGBTQ+ community, it is still uncertain whether the directive will actually allow for any legal action to be taken to implement the changes.