Vietnam holds first gay pride parade
By Cat Barton, AFP Monday, August 6, 2012, 11:21 am TWN
HANOI--Dozens of cyclists decorated with balloons and rainbow flags streamed through the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Sunday for the first gay pride parade in the communist state.
Organized by the city's small but growing lesbian gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the event went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colorful convoy of about 100 activists despite their lack of official permission.
"It's time to eliminate discrimination against people of different sexuality. I am straight, but my cousin is a lesbian," said Kyle Tran, 19, wearing a red headband saying "I love LGBT."
The cyclists attracted no hostility — and only a little attention — as they made their way down Hanoi's busy streets.
"Vietnamese society supports us, supports this rally — I have come out already and I have never had any problems," Hung Culif, 22, told AFP at the start of the event.
The parade follows recent gay pride celebrations in Myanmar and Laos, reflecting signs of liberalizing social attitudes in parts of Southeast Asia.
Homosexuality remains largely taboo in Vietnam, where Confucian social mores — with their emphasis on tradition and family — still dominate.
Gays are routinely portrayed in the media as comical figures or as people suffering from a condition that can be treated.
But in a surprise move late last month, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong said that it might be time to consider a change in the law to recognize same-sex marriage.
Vietnam currently forbids same-sex unions. Any move to legalize gay marriage would make Vietnam the first nation in Asia to do so.
The cyclists voiced strong support for the possible legal changes, shouting "we support same-sex marriage" and calling for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
"There is a lot of attention on gay rights issues now," Le Minh, 21, told AFP as she attached a rainbow flag to her bicycle.
"There were (many) questions about gay marriage at the recent National Assembly session. It is really good for the community," she said.
Activists said they had modified the parade route after coming under pressure from police to avoid sensitive areas of the capital where anti-China demonstrations were taking place. Vietnam tightly restricts demonstrations.
"We don't have permission for this and even if we had asked for official permission it would not have been possible," said Van Anh, 51.
"But we have a lot of support from Vietnamese society. Many people told me they want to attend the parade," she added.
Gays and lesbians in Vietnam still suffer from discrimination — particularly from family members — she said, adding that the pride parade and the possible marriage law change could help break down social stigma.
"As the National Assembly is now considering this, we hope that they will amend the law (to allow gay marriage), which would be a very positive thing for Vietnam, for Vietnamese culture," she added.
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