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PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:46 pm 
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Vietnam set to legalize gay weddings
13 November 2013
By Joe Morgan

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Vietnam is set to legalize gay weddings.

The south-eastern Asian country has officially allowed same-sex couples to organize weddings and have the right to live together.

While the unions won’t be legally recognized as marriages, gay rights campaigners believe it is a large small step on the path to equal rights. The Government has taken this step after two fines were handed out to a gay and lesbian couple who chose to have a marriage ceremony in the southern provinces of Kien Giang and Ca Mau. The couples were charged with holding a ceremony ‘contrary to the habits and customs of Vietnam’ and the Law on Marriage & Family of Vietnam which bans marriage between persons of the same sex.

But now with the changing of the law, gay weddings will no longer be illegal. After starting consultations with relevant departments in summer 2012, same-sex marriage itself was due to be voted on in May this year. But despite some government ministers saying they support equal marriage, the vote was delayed. Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong believes a gradual transition towards same-sex marriage is the best way to achieve the reform.

It is believed the next step will be to equalize the age at which men and woman can get married. Currently the marriageable age for boys is 20 and 18 for girls. Le Quang Binh, gay rights activist and ISEE director, said: ‘We are going the right way in the fight for same-sex marriage. This might be the first step, but it will still change people’s lives for the better.’

Source: GayStarNews.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 19, 2013 7:59 am 
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California city OKs parade despite gay exclusion
12 December 2013

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Tolan Ngyen holds a sign Sunday in Westminster in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups who were not allowed to march in the Tet parade. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

WESTMINSTER, Calif. (AP) -- A Southern California city granted a private group a permit Wednesday night to hold a Vietnamese new year's parade, despite objections over its exclusion of the community's gay and lesbian residents.

Members of a gay and lesbian group pleaded with the Westminster City Council to deny the permit to the Vietnamese American Federation of Southern California at a meeting, but the vote to grant it was unanimous. "They say our community goes against Vietnamese tradition, but Vietnamese tradition is about love and respect," said Joee Truong of Viet Rainbow of Orange County, which has won the attention and support of national gay rights groups like GLAAD.

Council members criticized the exclusionary policy and have urged the two groups to find a compromise, but said they have no legal choice but to grant the permit, saying it was no different than a protest march and they could not control the content. "This whole thing has made all the people of Westminster look bad," Councilwoman Diana Carey said. "We look like we discriminate." Carey said she's spent her life "fighting against discrimination, but having said that, I took an oath to support the constitution and First Amendment rights. As egregious as this is, I have to support this."

Parade organizer Neil Nguyen said in the application for the permit that the purpose of the parade is to "share the traditional and social values of Vietnamese that has been passed on from generation to generation and to show unity of the Vietnamese American community," according to the Orange County Register.

Organizers have previously said gay community members can march before or after the event.

The Tet parade has been held in the city for two decades and gay and lesbian groups were allowed in it when it was controlled by the city, but when the private group took over for the 2013 parade, they were told they could not participate, and were denied by a court when they sued for inclusion.

Source: AP.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:38 am 
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Vietnam hosts third gay pride parade as attitudes soften
August 3, 2014

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Participants in Vietnam's gay pride parade ride bicycles along a street in Hanoi

Around 300 activists led a colourful parade through Hanoi on Sunday in the nation's largest ever gay pride event, as communist Vietnam shows signs of increasing tolerance of sexual difference.

The city streets were awash with rainbow flags, as a mainly young crowd cycled and danced through the capital urging an end to discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Homosexuality remains taboo in Vietnam, but a series of gradual advances, including the removal of fines for same-sex wedding parties, have been welcomed by the LGBT community in recent years. In 2012 lawmakers even briefly considered legalising gay marriage -- a move which would have thrust the authoritarian country to the forefront of gay rights in Asia -- but stopped short.

Sunday's event was the third gay pride parade in Vietnam and attracted a wide range of people including local activists, foreigners and curious by-standers. "I'm here for the rights of homosexuals. I want them to be treated fairly like everyone else," Le Kieu Oanh, a 20 year-old art student told AFP. Another activist praised the government's move to end curbs on same-sex wedding ceremonies -- which are symbolic but non-legally binding. But "public opinion is not ready for same-sex marriage," the sociologist added on condition of anonymity.

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Hanoi faces frequent criticism by international watchdogs for human rights abuses, making it an unlikely champion for the region's LGBT community. One of the parade organisers, Nguyen Trong Dung, said homosexuals need to be "accepted by their families" before wider society ends its prejudice. "If they are recognised by their own families, they have a high chance of integrating into society," he added.

Demonstrations of any kind are tightly controlled in Vietnam, especially following riots in May in protest at China's placement of an oil rig in Vietnam's East Sea or commonly known as South China Sea. Police, however, did not intervene in Sunday's parade.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 27, 2014 3:09 am 
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Parades and wedding parties as Vietnam gay taboo eases
By Cat Barton
August 5, 2014

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Nghi (L) and Luan pour champagne during their same-sex wedding party in the southern province of Binh Phuoc on April 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Kim Viet Xinh)

From flamboyant parades to symbolic same-sex weddings, taboos surrounding homosexuality -- once viewed as a "social evil" -- are slowly crumbling in Vietnam, but activists say only freedom to marry will bring true equality.

In the latest celebration of the small but significant legal gains for the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, around 300 people joined a colourful bicycle parade through the narrow streets of Hanoi on Sunday. It was the country's third -- and largest -- gay pride event, as increasingly tolerant attitudes gain ground in a nation where conservative Confucian values and traditions still dominate, particularly in rural areas.

Vietnam's main cities, from the capital Hanoi to southern Ho Chi Minh City, have small but vibrant gay night life scenes. And the authoritarian country now finds itself among the most progressive nations in Asia in terms of its approach to sexuality.

In 2012, lawmakers even mulled changing the law to permit same-sex marriage -- a move which would have catapulted the Vietnam to the forefront of gay rights in the region -- but it stopped short. Instead, they abolished fines for same-sex wedding parties -- symbolic unions that lack full legal recognition. Emboldened activists are now pressing authorities to revisit the marriage issue.

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Nghi (L) and his partner Luan pose for photos at their same-sex wedding party in the southern province of Binh Phuoc on April 27, 2014 (AFP Photo/Kim Viet Xinh)

"We really want Vietnam to fully legalise same-sex marriage... so we can own property and adopt a child together," Dao Le Duc Nghi, 30, told AFP. Nghi "married" his partner Nguyen Cong Luan in April at a "happy wedding" which just five months earlier would have likely been broken up by local officials. "Both sets of parents were there. We had around 200 guests. We informed local authorities and they told us to go ahead," Nghi told AFP.

But the couple, who run a small restaurant called Pe De Crab Noodles -- Pe De means gay in Vietnamese -- in southern Binh Phuoc province, say they are hoping for changes which will grant their symbolic union the same legal status as a normal marriage. "They will legalise same-sex marriage eventually," Nghi said. "There is no reason not to."

Big disappointment

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A same-sex couple sitting in the compound of the American Club, the venue of the annual Vietnam Pride Parade party, in Hanoi on August 3, 2014
(AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

For now, the government disagrees. It says Vietnam's conservative rural population is not ready to accept same-sex unions. "In the last few years there have been big changes in public opinion," said sociologist Le Quang Binh, adding it was "a big disappointment" that same-sex marriage had not been legalised. There was a clause in a new family law which would have extended some legal protections to LGBT couples regarding property rights and adoption. But it was removed by the National Assembly at the last minute.

This means that same-sex couples still cannot own property together or jointly adopt children. Trinh Thi Thanh Binh, deputy-in-charge of social affairs at the National Assembly, told AFP that the removal of fines for same-sex wedding parties was still an important step. "Homosexuals are like anyone else, they have the same rights as everyone else," she claimed.

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Nghi (L) slides a wedding ring onto his partner Luan's finger during their same-sex wedding in the southern province of Binh Phuoc on April 27, 2014
(AFP Photo/Kim Viet Xinh)

Binh conceded that the LGBT community had suffered discrimination, leaving many people feeling unable to come out to their families or live with their partners in public. "But the law protects the rights of all citizens, whether they're the majority or minority," she said, asserting that removing the wedding party fines had improved life for gay couples.

Viet Pride

The numbers at Sunday's Viet Pride event may have be relatively small compared to the huge street parties hosted by western capitals such as London, Berlin or Sydney.

But activists insist their movement is snowballing. "We have seen small but firm and consistent progress," said event organiser Tam Nguyen. The first year the parade was held, Vietnamese journalists from state-run media covered it reluctantly -- and only after the event received widespread international coverage. This time around, local television and newspapers have beaten a path to Nguyen's door. "They're serious about this," she said.

Hanoi is frequently criticised by international watchdogs for human rights abuses, making it seem an unlikely champion for the region's LGBT community. "LGBT rights have been a useful bright spot for Hanoi to point to in its dismal human rights record," said Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson. "But eventually the LGBT community in Vietnam will expect more."

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:07 pm 
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Vietnam debates sex work: 'social evil' or legitmate job?
September 22, 2014

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Vietnam debates sex work: social evil or legitmate job? AFP Vietnam debates sex work: 'social evil' or legitmate job?

Hanoi (AFP) - For Vietnamese sex workers like Do Thi Oanh, being caught touting for business used to carry a long stint in forced "rehabilitation", but as fines replace detention, many detect a shifting attitude towards the world's oldest profession.

In 2008, Oanh was sent to one of Vietnam's notorious rehabilitation camps on the outskirts of Hanoi, joining hundreds of prostitutes and drug addicts detained without conviction for taking part in a "social evil". The 32-year-old was held for 18 months in the centre where detainees worked for free raising poultry, gardening or making handicrafts.

Last year Vietnam suddenly replaced compulsory rehab for sex workers with fines of between $25 to $100, releasing hundreds of people from centres across the country. Oanh, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said the legal move points to a wider liberalising attitude towards sex work in the communist nation. "I think that society today is much more tolerant with people like me," said Oanh, who has herself given up prostitution but remains in sex work, running a massage parlour in the capital.

Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, but hundreds of thousands of sex workers ply their trade in a deeply conservative society which is still dominated by Confucian social mores. Prostitution is considered a social evil, along with drug addiction and homosexuality. Drug addicts continue to be sent to compulsory rehab. But in recent months a fierce debate over whether to legalise and regulate the sex industry has sprung up online and in the official press, airing views that were long considered taboo. Even the National Assembly is due to address the issue at its next session in October.

Brothel boom

Despite decades of official suppression, Vietnam's sex industry has flourished in parallel with the economy since market reforms of the late 1980s opened up the socialist system to international trade and investment.

Researchers estimate there are around 200,000 sex workers in Vietnam, full-time or occasional, of whom up to 40 percent are believed to be HIV-positive. "We should legalise prostitution because it is part of human rights. Everybody has the right to enjoy sex," said sociologist Le Quang Binh. Legalisation could help "protect sex workers and their clients and bring in revenue for the government through taxes," he added.

In the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City, police statistics show there are at least 30,000 establishments linked to the sex trade -- from massage parlours and karaoke lounges to actual brothels. Many popular Vietnamese beach towns even have open brothels operating under the protection of criminal gangs, sometimes with the complicity of corrupt local officials. "As we are not able to eradicate prostitution, we will have to manage it," said Trinh Thi Khiet, a Hanoi-based parliamentarian. "We shouldn't encourage the sex trade but we have to look at this issue in the face. We need to save women from mafia networks."

The debate over how to tackle prostitution, however, remains sharply polarised.

Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City last year proposed to implement experimental "red zones" -- not yet in place -- where prostitution would be allowed or at least tolerated. But in Hanoi authorities have suggested publicly disclosing the names of punters caught by police to deter others from buying sex. Despite high-profile "clean-up" campaigns, prostitutes operate openly on major roads in the city, much to the distress of some residents.

Nguyen Thi Hoa, who owns a clothes shop, says she has stopped listening to regular news reports showing "half-naked young girls" arrested in police raids on hotels. "I see the police arrest prostitutes one day... the next day they're back on the streets... The fight against prostitution has made hardly ??any progress," she said.

Too sensitive

While objections to prostitution abound, sociologists urge a pragmatic response to an age-old industry. "We are totally incapable of controlling prostitution Institute for Social Development Studies. And while Vietnamese children continue to learn in school that the "social evil" of prostitution destroys moral and cultural values, the taboo around sex will remain an obstacle to legalisation.

For now, the government line is that "prostitution cannot be considered a job", according to Le Duc Hien, deputy director in charge of the fight against vices within the labour ministry. "Legalisation is really a great challenge for us," she said, adding that "this issue is still too sensitive" in Vietnam.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 11, 2014 4:36 pm 
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Bride or brothel - the choice for duped Vietnamese women trafficked to China in thriving industry
December 7, 2014
by Nirmal Ghosh

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Vietnamese brides Nguyen Thi Hang (left) and Vu Thi Hong Thuy in Weijian village, in China's Henan province. PHOTO: AFP

The two traffickers were detected and stopped by police as they were boarding a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.

They had three women with them, bought from their families for around US$470 (S$617) each, reports said of the October incident. The women were to have been transported by road from Hanoi deep into southern China to marry the men who had bought them.

Trafficking of poor Vietnamese women to China is a thriving industry which China and Vietnam are struggling to contain. Both countries hand down harsh punishments for trafficking. On Nov 28, a court in Vietnam gave six people involved in an earlier case similar to the October incident jail terms ranging from a suspended term to eight years. In China, the law punishes both buyers and traffickers in women and children. Traffickers can and do get five to 10 years in prison.

Yet the trafficking is on the rise.

In September, Ms Wang Ying, a deputy director at China's Ministry of Public Security, was quoted by the state-run China Daily as saying: "In recent days, some cross-border marriage brokerages and websites have published tempting advertisements offering Vietnamese brides for cross-border marriages, but most of these involve kidnappings." The "marriage brokers" promised young women introductions to rich Chinese men from big cities, but many of the women were duped into being "sold" as brides to villagers in rural China, she said. "Once their client takes a liking to a foreign girl, they cheat her and persuade her to have a wedding in Vietnam, then charge their male client 30,000 yuan (S$6,390) to 50,000 yuan as a service charge," said Ms Wang.

Nobody knows how many young women are sold across the border, either willingly - taking a chance with the people smugglers - or unwillingly, or simply duped. Activists involved in rescuing and rehabilitating young victims reckon the vast majority do not know what they are letting themselves in for. But it is certain they are in the thousands every year.

Vietnam's big cities are humming, with the economy growing at well over 5 per cent so far this year. But in the countryside, grinding poverty remains. The poverty, combined with naivete, means a few hundred or a thousand US dollars are sometimes enough compensation for relatives to send a young woman to an unknown fate, at the hands of unknown men, in a foreign country. Sometimes the women go themselves, sold on promises made by brokers.

Some marriages turn out to be happy. In some cases, the men involved are also gullible and do not know they are party to trafficking. But many of these arrangements entrap the women who find it difficult to leave. Some relationships can be abusive, with the women treated like slaves. Some women may even be sold again. Too few of them manage to escape, perhaps finding a mobile phone and calling the police, or getting a friend to make a call, or borrowing money to pay off debts and buy their way back home.

Usually, most women are trafficked from northern Vietnam. From North Vietnam, it is easy to get a young woman across the border into China. Often, it is a matter of a short trek over mountains or just wading across a creek. But because of high demand, traffickers are casting their net wider - to South Vietnam. "Recently we have noticed more South Vietnamese going to China," says Ms Mimi Vu, Ho Chi Minh City-based director of advocacy and strategic partnerships at the Pacific Links Foundation. The charity is active on the Vietnam-China border, running two shelters for rescued women and economically empowering poor young women by providing education and vocational training. "Now we know that the demand for brides is so great that traffickers are willing to take the risk of transporting trafficking victims all the way to the north," Ms Vu said.

In one northern village, with a population of 337, about one-tenth had been trafficked to China in the past 18 months, she added. "All of this is economically driven," she said. Young girls could fetch as much as US$1,600 to US$4,000 in China. Often, the local person who agrees to traffic them gets a cut of just US$100. The person may not be a close relative; they may just be facilitators. In many cases, families from hardscrabble or minority communities eking out a living in the mountains and possibly even illiterate just believe the women are going to a better life as the wife of a rich Chinese, and will send money back to them.

Vietnam is in Tier 2 of the US State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, an influential assessment of the world's efforts in combating trafficking by country. By some estimates, globally as many as 27 million men, women and children are trafficking victims at any given time. A Tier 2 listing means the country does not meet international norms in combating trafficking but is making the effort. Singapore is also in Tier 2 while Thailand and Malaysia are in Tier 3. Vietnam's efforts have improved but remain under-resourced, a Western diplomat in Ho Chi Minh City said, asking not to be identified.

It is very difficult to educate rural people in remote areas, and to address their poverty, to stop young women from being sold, the diplomat said. Enforcement officers are also sometimes complicit, in return for a cut. The Internet has extended the reach of the traffickers, noted the diplomat. International marriage brokers are illegal in Vietnam, but with the Internet they do not need a physical presence there. "The government recognises the need to make more effort," the diplomat said. "The topic is discussed more now among officials, police and social workers. Efforts are broader and deeper now, including education, social work, reintegration and prosecution."

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A Vietnamese woman arriving home after being rescued from Malaysia. The Internet has extended the reach of traffickers, says one diplomat in Vietnam.
PHOTO: ALLIANCE ANTI TRAFIC

Mr Michael Brosowski, the Hanoi-based founder and chief executive of the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, which works with Vietnamese children in crisis, believes law enforcers in Vietnam are doing a good job. "It's an extremely difficult issue for them, it is international crime, it is Vietnamese people being taken to another country and being exploited, so it is very difficult to investigate or prosecute cases - but there's no doubt they are doing what they can."

Ultimately, the key to stopping trafficking is to ensure that the benefits of economic growth are spread to the poorest and most vulnerable of Vietnam's population. Until then, the women will always be at risk. "The Chinese talk of buying Vietnamese brides like buying a car," said Ms Vu. "What we have heard from some of our girls trafficked into China is they get a choice. Do you want to work in a brothel, or be a bride?"

CHINA'S GENDER IMBALANCE FUELLING DEMAND

China's gender imbalance - the result of its once long-running one-child policy which triggered widespread sex-selective abortions in favour of male children - has fuelled a huge demand for women of marriage age or younger.

Exploitation and trafficking of young Vietnamese women for marriage is a trend of increasing concern, Vietnam's Ministry of Public Security said at a joint conference with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on July 30, with several government agencies and civil society groups present. The conference took place at My Tho City, Tien Giang province - one of 18 provinces in South Vietnam considered hot spots for human trafficking - and was part of the government's 2011-2015 National Plan of Action against Human Trafficking.

The ministry reported that an average of 18,000 Vietnamese citizens - 92 per cent of them female - migrate to get married every year, with a significant number using illegal brokers. From early 2008 to June this year, the authorities detected 1,100 cases of women trafficked for the purpose - or under the pretence - of marriage. "The number of cases discovered by the police does not represent the extent of the problem," the conference agreed. "The line between the willing and the coerced is often blurred."

Separately, it has been reported that, in 2009, shelters across the country were providing relief services to over 12,000 trafficked women and children. "Typically, women entering international marriages are from rural areas, unemployed and poorly educated," the IOM said in a report of the conference proceedings. Women from Vietnam's south-west provinces account for most of foreign marriages. In the north, foreign marriages primarily take place in provinces bordering China.

The Department of Criminal Police reported that more than 60 per cent of human trafficking cases in southern Vietnam related to Taiwan and China. In the first six months of this year, there had been 310 cases of trafficking detected - a 60 per cent increase over the same period last year. "Where previously illegal marriage brokerage was organised by individuals, now it is large organisations working across borders," the IOM said. "The legal framework remains loose and, as such, punishment is an administrative fine rather than a criminal sentence. Many cases cannot be brought to trial due to lack of evidence."

Source: Straits Times.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 28, 2015 8:50 am 
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Hanoi jail holds transgender prisoner in solitary confinement
By Thai Son
Friday, October 3, 2014

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Tram Anh (also known as Nguyen Van Hieu) is being detained in a separate cell in Hanoi. Photo provided by Hanoi police.

A Vietnamese transgender model who rose to fame after participating in two televised reality shows was put into solitary confinement, on Tuesday, after officials at the Hanoi jail said they couldn't determine where to house her.

Prison officials said they finally sent Tram Anh, whose given name is Nguyen Van Hieu, into a separate cell, after determining it was not “okay” to put the transgender prisoner into either male or female holding cell. “It is not okay for a transgender woman to share a room with other male prisoners,” Lieutenant General Ta Xuan Binh of the Ministry of Public Security told Thanh Nien News. “However, other female prisoners objected to being housed in the same cell with the arrestee. As such, we had to arrange a separate room [for her]”.

Police caught Tram Anh red-handed while she was making a drug transaction on a Hanoi street on Monday. Anh was arrested while in possession of a plastic bag containing 2.6 grams of amphetamine. Anh said she bought the pills for VND 2 million (US$94) and intended to sell them for VND 2.5 million ($117).

The transgender woman became a household hame after she registered to be a contestant on the 2012 Vietnam Next Top Model Competition. Lan Anh's name became known to the public after her brief run on Vietnam's Next Top Model. Photo provided by the contest organizers. Tram Anh was eliminated from the competition after producing an identity card that listed her gender as “male.”

The right of individuals to determine the gender reflected on their identification card is something civil society groups are now pushing for in Vietnam. Anh later dropped out of the first round of another televised modeling competition, Vietnam Idol. This time, the sound of her voice was cited as the impetus for her elimination.

Tram Anh rose closer to fame after a local cosmetic surgeon sponsored the entire fee for her operation in Thailand. Soon afterward, she became the surgeon's spokesperson. The operation only changed shape of her face; other parts in her body, including her sex organs, remained unchanged.

Vietnamese law does not yet contain provisions for such special cases, Binh said, adding that jail officials should devise temporary solutions for such scenarios. The Ministry of Public Security proposed creating separate cells for homosexuals in a bill the agency is circulating for public opinion. Under the draft temporary detention law, which will only pertain to detainees awaiting trial (rather than prisoners serving time post-conviction) agencies that are unable to identify the gender of a given arrestee must coordinate with medical agencies to identify their genders.

The list of suspects eligible for such determination includes congenital hermaphrodites and those who have partially or fully completed elective gender reassignment surgeries. These detainees will be held in separate holding areas before being sent to gender-based sections when their gender is determined. Those who engage in homosexual relations with other inmates will be fined and sent to separate holding areas. The bill also proposed separate detention for foreigners, teens, people suffering infectious disease and inmates accused of brutal crimes (e.g. murder, rape, robbery, national security crimes and capitol offenses).

VnExpress news website ran an article in September about a transgender prisoner who underwent a surgery to become a female but was put into a holding cell with 60 other male prisoners. Lan Anh, 28, told the news website that during her four-year detention, she broke down crying several times as she begged her cellmates to stop harassing her. “My breasts were left bruised on several occasions following such harassment,” said Lan Anh, whose given name was Cao Phuoc Nguyen.

Source: Than Hnien News.

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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2015 7:57 am 
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No Fat Tourists: 5 Rules Of Life As A Prostitute In Vietnam
By Evan V. Symon and Diem Phu Nu
April 19, 2015

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Prostitution is illegal in most of Southeast Asia, but there's a big ol' set of quotation marks around the word.

Thailand and Vietnam are especially notorious as destinations for sex tourists. And since Cracked has developed a habit of interviewing prostitutes over the last year for totally official reasons and not at all because we need somebody to hold us while we cry, we decided to speak with Diem Phu Nu. Diem was a Ho Chi Minh City moped prostitute. A moped is the third most hilarious vehicle for a prostitute to use, behind a jetpack and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.

#5. Many Families Are Perfectly Fine With Prostitution

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Nghia Pham

For poorer women like me, prostitution is seen as a fairly acceptable way to get income. I started when I was 15, not because we were starving and needed groceries (although I did help them out on expenses) -- I simply wanted some spending money, and part-time prostitution was a way to get it. I had a lot of English-speaking clients who wanted to take me to dinner as part of the escort experience, so I got free meals, too. It may seem tragic to you, but I was OK with it, and so was my family. The street caller who got clients for me was a family friend, and he looked out for me.

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DragonImages/iStock/Getty Images - That might sound like Stockholm Syndrome, but take my word for it.

An unexpected fringe benefit: Many of my clients were talkers, and that wound up helping me out a lot in school. I got top grades in English thanks to all the practice I got with clients. You can study quietly in a library, or you can study while having sex and getting paid for it. Seemed like a better deal to me.

It's really only tourists who look down on us for it. One white woman passed me and an older guy holding hands in the street once and told us that "we should be ashamed of ourselves." But he was satisfying his sexual desires, while I consented and was getting money to save up for a moped. I certainly didn't feel ashamed or abused while hooking; I felt like I was 62 percent of the way to a bitchin' scooter.

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Pete Niesen/Hemera/Getty Images - Consider it a lay away plan.

#4. You Can't Just Start Selling Your Body

Zhang Han

You may think that starting work as a prostitute is as easy as dressing sexily and actually accepting those lewd offers the guys are yelling at you anyway. But without a "caller," you'll be lost. Callers are basically those guys who twirl around big arrow signs to get people into mattress stores and pizza joints, but for sex workers. No, they don't dance on the street corners while spinning vagina-shaped signs -- they call out to passing tourists and carefully screen prospective clients. Each one knows what the prostitutes they represent can handle.

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Zhang Han - Figuratively and literally.

For example: They'll avoid pairing most of us with heavyset people. Many Vietnamese women are small, so a large, heavy man will be a problem. If the client persists and asks for us specifically, they will have to meet us for dinner rather than riding with us straight to the destination. That's not because we hate them -- fat tourists on mopeds are more of a physics problem than a moral one.

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xuanhuongho/iStock Editorial/Getty Images - "It's a motorbike, not a Walmart scooter."

The established callers all have their own turf, and they'll chase away any unrepresented prostitute they see working their area. Other areas are absolutely filled with moped-straddling hookers already, and thus the market is as saturated as ... I'm not going to finish that analogy, for all our sakes.

#3. We Truly Care About The Customer Experience

Tuoi Tre

Prostitution sounds like a pretty straightforward business:

1. Direct "tab a" into "slot b."
2. Collect money.

Image
cyclonebill/Wikimedia - Slot c costs extra.

But, at least in my city, a surprising amount of thought goes into pairing each customer with the best prostitute for his wants and needs. We're a service industry, and just because we're literally servicing our customers doesn't mean we phone it in.

Say the client gets waved over to a caller. It's not like a taxi stand, where you hop into the first available opening. The caller and the client speak for a while first. Sometimes clients have specific wants -- anything from a classy escort experience to hardcore BDSM. Then their preference is divided into age, figure, sex, and ethnicity. It's like building your own video game character, only you get to fuck it once you're done.

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Ethan Miller/Getty Images News/Getty Images - It'll be at least four years before you can legitimately fuck your video game character.

After the caller finds out exactly what the client wants, only then does he contact the most fitting available prostitute. For longer negotiations, the caller might even stop at a drink stand and treat the client to some booze. The customer gets their free drunk on, while the street caller talks it over with the girls until a decision is reached upon who, exactly, is the best prostitute for the job at hand.

Source: Cracked.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 7:34 pm 
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Meet Vietnam’s Gay Power Couple: the U.S. Ambassador and His Husband
by John Boudreau
August 2, 2015

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Ted Osius and Clayton Bond

Since their December arrival in Vietnam, U.S. Ambassador Ted Osius and his husband have become the most prominent gay couple in the Southeast Asian country.

Osius and Clayton Bond landed with their toddler son shortly before the government abolished its ban on same-sex marriage. Now the couple, who recently adopted an infant girl, find themselves ambassadors of the nascent LGBT rights movement spreading across the country.

“A lot of young people have reached out to me on Facebook, to say: ‘We are happy to see somebody who is gay and is happy in his personal life but also has had professional success’,” Osius said in an interview. “I don’t think of it as advocating as much as supporting Vietnamese civil society in doing what it is already doing.”

The Communist government’s revised marriage law, while not officially recognizing same-sex marriage, and its tolerance of pride events has made Vietnam a leader in gay rights in Southeast Asia, potentially opening up opportunities to attract the tourist “pink dollar” and business executives seeking a more tolerant environment.

Yet young gay Vietnamese say they can be ostracized in a patriarchal society in which heterosexual marriage and parenthood are seen as the path to happiness. The legal changes also sit oddly in a country that more broadly curbs political dissent, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in an e-mail.

Osius, 53, and Bond frequently appear together at official government gatherings and media events. Osius -- who is on his first posting as ambassador and has also worked in Indonesia and India -- always introduces his husband and often talks about their children, who are 19 months and five months. “This is a core interest of ours with regard to human rights,” said Bond, 39. “People see us as an openly gay couple with kids serving our country. I hope people find that inspiring.”

‘Role Models’

While a small number of celebrities have held same-sex weddings, Osius and Bond are the most prominent gay couple in Vietnam, said Tung Tran, director of ICS, a Ho Chi Minh City-based group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. They are also embraced by the larger population, reflecting the closer relationship being forged by Hanoi and Washington.

Osius and Bond, who have been married for 10 years, plan to renew their vows before U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during her visit to Hanoi later this month. “They are the full package,” Tran said by phone. “They are married. They have a family. They are successful. They are our role models.”

Osius, a career diplomat, co-founded GLIFAA, a U.S. association for LGBT employees and families in foreign affairs agencies, in 1992. There are now six openly gay U.S. ambassadors, including Osius, Ambassador to Australia John Berry and Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, said Regina Jun, president of the group.

Osius’ posting to Vietnam comes amid improved relations between Vietnam and the U.S., former enemies that have shared economic goals and strategic concerns about an increasingly assertive China in the region. Vietnam’s civil society is relatively robust, Osius said, even as its human rights record in other areas remains a hindrance to even warmer ties.

‘Medical Methods’

Vietnam held about 125 political prisoners at the end of 2014, fewer than in previous years, in part because of a drop in convictions, according to the U.S. State Department. “Vietnam is trying to figure out what kind of country it wants to be and it doesn’t want to be China,” Osius said. “There is more openness. There is more inclusiveness in government.”

On gay rights the country has some way to go. Same-sex relationships can be viewed as bringing bad luck to a family, said Luong The Huy, legal officer at the Hanoi-based Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment. “Families are usually the last people LGBTs come out to,” he said by phone. “The reactions can be harsh. Some are involuntarily treated by medical methods or get locked up in the house.” The government is also debating transgender rights, said Le Quang Binh, chairman of the institute. This year 25 Viet Pride events will take place across the country, up from 17 in 2014, said Tran of ICS.

‘More Restrictive’

In other parts of Southeast Asia including Thailand, the push for gay rights has stalled. Countries such as Brunei and Malaysia can punish those who engage in gay behavior under Sharia law, Robertson said. In Singapore, sex between men is illegal although rarely prosecuted. The city-state banned a song and video by Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai’s about same-sex relationships, the Straits Times reported May 26.

“In many ways the region is getting more restrictive,” Jamie Gillen, a researcher of cultural geography at the National University of Singapore, said by phone. “Vietnam is something of an outlier. Vietnam has a live-and-let-live mentality.”

On the evening of July 31, Osius and Bond attended the kick-off of Hanoi’s Viet Pride weekend, which featured a bicycle rally through the heart of the city. He addressed about a hundred Vietnamese in a hall where rainbow banners covered a wall. Speaking in Vietnamese, Osius urged the gathering of young people to simply be who they are. “This stuff hits right at home,” he said after the speech, tears welling. “Yeah, it hits right at home.”

Source: Bloomberg.

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 09, 2015 6:34 pm 
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Vietnam's transgender say new law paves way for surgeries
25 November 2015

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Gay and transgender activists in Vietnam say a new law recognizing their rights will pave the way for gender reassignment surgery in the communist country and reduce discrimination.

Vietnam's National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously passed the law, which will take effect in 2017 as part of the revised civil code. According to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly, the law was passed to "meet the demands of a part of the society in accordance with international practice and not counter to the national tradition."

Those who have undergone transgender reassignment will be allowed to register under their new gender with their personal rights protected accordingly, the Thanh Nien newspaper quoted the committee as saying. Huynh Minh Thao of ICS, an LGBT group, said the law will make it legal for hospitals to perform gender reassignment surgeries. So far, Vietnamese had to travel to neighboring Thailand for such procedures. "This is a good opportunity for the Vietnamese health services to perform transgender surgeries, which are illegal now," Thao said.

Last year, the National Assembly passed a revised law on marriage and family, which lifted the ban on same-sex marriages. However, the government still doesn't recognize them. There are estimated 270,000 to 450,000 transgender people in Vietnam, which has a population of 90 million people.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:38 pm 
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"Birds vs butterflies:" gender-selective abortions in Vietnam
27 November 2015
By Scott Duke Harris and Bac Pham

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"Birds vs butterflies:" gender-selective abortions in Vietnam - © Bac Pham, dpa

Hanoi (dpa) - Huyen, 29 years old and 14 weeks pregnant, waited nervously at a Hanoi maternity clinic.

With two young daughters at home and two abortions behind her, she was hoping to hear staff look at the sonogram and say, "Looks like the father!"

In Vietnam, such code phrases are used to get around laws proscribing medical staff from disclosing gender while the foetus is young enough to abort without medical grounds. Huyen was hoping for a boy, in line with the country's patriarchal traditions; another girl would bring pressure from her husband and in-laws for a third abortion.

Gender-selective abortion is illegal but on the rise in Vietnam, and contributes to the country's highest overall abortion rate in the region, according the UN Population Fund. The widespread availability of the procedure and increased teenage sexual activity, have driven up rates to one termination for every five live births per year, according to the Health Ministry.

Abortions by choice are legal up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, and typically cost about 150 dollars. A recent proposal by the Health Ministry to lower the limit to 12 weeks, except in cases of rape or medical problems, has been met with widespread public criticism. Within the high abortion rates, gender-selective terminations are a distinct problem, despite 12 years of laws and initiatives against the practice.

In 2014, a record of 112.4 boys were born for every 100 girls, up from 106 boys in 2003. In 16 localities, the male ratio exceeded 115, topping out at 124.4 at northern province of Quang Ninh. At that rate, Vietnam would have 4.5 million more males than females by 2050, some studies say. "Vietnam will face the problems China has faced because our sons will have trouble finding wives," said Khuat Thu Hong, director of the Hanoi-based Institute for Social Development Studies. China saw nearly 118 boys born for every 100 girls in 2011. "Vietnam will face more social problems such as prostitution and women trafficking."

Some women say that their husbands blame and beat them if they don't produce sons, even though gender is determined by the father's chromosomes. Machismo is a key factor, said Pham Thu Hien, a gender-bias expert with UN Population Fund who worked several years as a gynecologist and obstetrician. "Some men feel like they are not real men if they don't have sons," she said.

Gender imbalance among newborns is increasing in Vietnam, China, India and several other smaller countries, as newly prosperous populations use modern technology to obtain the traditionally favoured male children. So each year, thousands of Vietnamese women told by medical staff they are carrying a "butterfly" rather than a "bird" - another code - will opt for abortion, often with a gender-neutral explanation. "They'll say, 'We're too poor - we can't afford it' or 'The time isn't right'," said Hien, herself a mother of two girls, age 20 and 16. "They don't tell the truth because they know it is wrong."

There is no ignorance of the law, Hien said. During field research in a remote province, clinics were posted with signs informing clients of laws prohibiting the discussion of gender, and doctors and nurses insisted they strictly observed the laws, she said. Village women seldom said they had aborted because of gender, but all said they new someone who had, usually citing pressure from husbands and in-laws, she said.

Confucian tradition values sons to manage family wealth, care for ageing parents and perform rituals to honour ancestors. Couples also use a range of measures to increase the chance of conceiving male children. Some women try to determine the moment of ovulation or their variations in body temperature in the belief that precise timing of conception can influence the baby's gender, Hien said. More affluent couples use more scientific methods, including going abroad. Hien said she knows of one couple with two daughters who traveled to Singapore for in vitro fertilization that produced twin sons.

The government is considering several measures to ease pressures on families and hopefully reduce the impact of gender preference. There are proposals to lift a two-child limit applied to government workers, and to offer families extra insurance or tuition for girls, but both remain at the planning stage. One initiative implemented so far is a UN-backed awareness-raising campaign under the slogan "Being a Girl Is Cool."

Huyen emerged from her appointment with a glum expression. "Another butterfly," she said. "My husband will be unhappy." The doctor had warned her that a third abortion, and in her 14th week, could have health implications. "But I would rather suffer from health problems than have the third girl," she said.

Source: dpa.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 15, 2015 3:16 pm 
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Vietnam passes first law to protect transgender rights
24 November 2015

HANOI (AFP) -- Vietnam on Tuesday passed a landmark law enshrining rights for transgender people in a move advocacy groups say paves the way for gender reassignment surgery in the nation.

Such operations are currently illegal, forcing people to travel to nearby Thailand for the surgery.

The legislation will allow those who have undergone gender reassignment to register under their new sex. The law will come into effect early in 2017 after 282 of 366 lawmakers voted in favour. "Individuals who undergo transgender change will have the right to register" under their new gender with "personal rights in accordance with their new sex", reported the state-controlled VNExpress website, citing a National Assembly report.

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", said the report from the Vietnamese parliament.

The country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community welcomed the move, saying it offered essential new rights. "Now people accept there is a transgender community, their legitimate rights will be ensured," said Nguyen Hai Yen from ICS, a local LGBT organisation which estimates there are around 270,000 transgender people in the country of 90 million.

The law is also being seen as a crucial step towards allowing gender reassignment operations. "People will no longer have to travel abroad for transgender surgery," said Luong The Huy, LGBT manager at Vietnam's Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment.

Homosexuality remains taboo but not illegal in Vietnam, and a series of gradual advances have seen the nation move towards more progressive views in its approach to sexuality. Its main cities have small but vibrant gay night life scenes while in 2013 the government abolished fines for same-sex wedding parties - symbolic unions that lack full legal recognition.

LGBT groups are still lobbying for Vietnam to legalise same-sex marriages after Hanoi briefly considered changing the law three years ago.

Source: AFP via Channel NewsAsia.

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