Vietnam’s Communist government is considering whether to legalize same-sex marriage, positioning the country to be the first in Asia to support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.
The Justice Ministry is debating whether to include rights for same-sex couples in an overhaul of it’s marriage laws, which would likely allow for rights related to inheritance, property and adoption, reported the Associated Press.
“I think, as far as human rights are concerned, it’s time for us to look at the reality,” said Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong, in an online chat broadcast on national TV and radio last week.
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“The number of homosexuals has mounted to hundreds of thousands. It’s not a small figure. They live together without registering marriage. They may own property. We, of course, have to handle these issues legally,” he said.
Even longtime gay-rights activists are stunned by the Justice Ministry’s proposal to include same-sex couples in its overhaul of the country’s marriage law. No one knows what form it will take or whether it will survive long enough to be debated before the National Assembly next year, but supporters say the fact that it’s even being considered is a victory in a region where simply being gay can result in jail sentences or whippings with a rattan cane.
Vietnam seems an unlikely champion of gay-rights issues. It is routinely lambasted by the international community over its dismal human rights record, often locking up political dissidents who call for democracy or religious freedom. Up until just a few years ago, homosexuality was labeled as a “social evil” alongside drug addiction and prostitution.Associated Press, via NPR →
The same-sex marriage proposal still has several hurdles before it could become law.
The Justice Ministry will consider opinions from the public along with government agencies before submitting its draft proposal to the National Assembly next May on whether to recommend same-sex marriage or some other type of legal recognition with rights. Then, it must be approved by a majority of parliament.
Vietnam will also hold its first ever public gay pride parade Aug. 5 in Hanoi.