The Vietnamese National Assembly last Tuesday approved a revision to the Civil Code that includes a new provision of recognition of the right to have one's gender reassigned. The measure received 77% support in the Assembly (282-84).
Congratulations to all of us, after years of sweat and tears.
--Tran Khang Di, Ho Chi Minh City
The law is an attempt to “meet the demands of a part of society … in accordance with international practice, without countering the nation’s traditions.
The 689 articles of the amended Civil Code will take affect January 1, 2017. The Vietnamese transgender community hopes to make sense of the new provisions by then. Some gathered together for a Friday meeting.
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.
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 against by other people and their life will be more peaceful.
--Hai Minh, transgender man
At least that's the theory.
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.
The regulation “individuals who undergo transgender changes” needs revisions.
The term ‘transgender people’ is a concept of gender identity. It’s not about whether they undergo sex changes.
--HuynhMinh Thao, Center for Social Initiatives Promotion (ICS)
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.
--Nyugen Thien Tri Phong, trans activist
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
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.
ICS estimates that there are over a quarter million transgender people in Vietnam (Government estimates are a half million). A survey by the Institute for Studies of Society Economics and Environment (ISEE) has estimated that 78.1% of transgender people wished a physical sex change, while more than half of the remainder did not wish surgery due to legal issues, while others declared financial constraints, fear of health problems, discrimination, or family disapproval.
About 86.3% of transgender people wish to change their name on documentation and 86.8% thought they needed a change of name before undergoing sex change surgery.
Previous to this change of law, sex reassignment was strictly limited to intersex people and was only performed at a few hospitals.
Earlier this year Vietnam lifted a ban on same-sex marriages, but has yet to provide any legal recognition for those same-sex unions. Prior to 2013 people were fined for having same-sex wedding parties.
Prior to the Civil Code amendment, surgical sex reassignment for non-intersex people was illegal in Vietnam and those who chose to have it done anyway did so in neighboring Thailand.