Vietnam is a fast growing country. When a country grows, there is a lot to gain: a new information and technology infrastructure, new wealth, new living standards, new social and cultural principles. I would like to focus this blog on the change of social and cultural beliefs, more specifically on same-sex marriage in Vietnam.
A Whole New World
The new information and technology infrastructure that Vietnam has in place to support economic growth has resulted in an increasing number of Vietnamese netizens. In October, 2012, Vietnam claimed to have 30.8 millions Internet users, which ranked it world’s 18th for most Internet users.
This means that a growing number of Vietnamese population is learning about new information. These new information varies by groups. Yet, with new information comes with new perspectives, new social and cultural changes. One example regards same-sex marriage in Vietnam.
For the longest time, homosexuality is deemed as an inappropriate and taboo topic to discuss in Vietnamese culture. Homosexual people face harsh discrimination on daily basis. They have to go through not only verbal but also sexual assaults from strangers, and sometimes from the people that are closest to them. Violence against the LGBTs in Vietnam is still common. Deaths and bullies sometime make small corners on national newspapers.
However, since the Internet, there has been a growing support and positive reactions to the LGBTs community. Even with just little ,and most of the time, incorrect information about the community, the Vietnamese LGBTs still have found themselves different online communities to find care, support, friends, and sometimes love. With this support, more and more LGBTs have decided to come out of the closet.
Moreover, it’s hard to dismiss the role of the Vietnamese showbiz in this. The roles of sassy gay friends are always selling tickets for cinemas and increasing rating for shows. Gay actors, actresses, designers, producers, and many more have been flooding social networking sites and online news.
Another thing that makes this most-talked about topic in Vietnam at the moment is that the government is drafting a new bill to allow same-sex marriage, which would make Vietnam the first Asian country to do so. No need to say, the battle has now just really started.
What is the new rule to live in the new world?- Please, don’t say anything that would potentially destroy your career. Apparently, in this new era of the Internet, anything you say and do would be permanently used against you. Just a few weeks ago, the Chairman of the Board of Director of Green Dream Services Educational Corp., Nguyen Thanh My, in her meeting with the students from Tran Phu school said that homosexuality is wrong, sick, and it could be cured. This statement was recorded and put on YouTube not long after that. The video was shared on Facebook almost instantly, and the news picked it up.
Nguyen Thanh My has earned a Master degree, and a leader of an educational corporation. Thus, her statement has brought her not only criticisms but also suspicions about her credibility. One of the responses from the population is that “homosexuality is not a disease, lack of information is.”
Back in April, 2013, the Vietnamese Women Association (Hội Liên Hiệp Phụ Nữ Việt Nam), also expressed that same-sex marriage shouldn’t be legalized due reproduction concerns. After the statement on its website, the association has got different ridicules and criticisms from not only the population but also the mainstream media.
As we can see, the growing support is largely from the Vietnamese netizens, instead of official authorities. However, Vietnamese mainstream media such as national newspapers are helping to familiarize the idea to the public.
Individuals like Nguyen Hoang Khac Hieu, who has a Master degree in Psychology and working as a professor, is doing a lot more than just saying he is supporting same-sex marriage. He has done skits and written responses to this topic.
Not only just individual efforts, community organizations, such as ICS, are also working hard to represent the LGBTs community, and to push for the bill to legalize same-sex marriage to pass. They have been organized a new movement called “I agree” to spread awareness, and to increase support for the LGBTs community.
Not only has ICS has done a great job in spreading and correcting information about LGBTs community, they have also been successful in asking Vietnamese celebrities to represent their campaign. The increasing number of Likes on their Facebook has shown that homosexuality in Vietnam is no longer a taboo.
What Can We Learn From This?
The battle is still going strong. The bill will be voted soon. The outcome of this bill is just as important as how homosexuality has changed social and cultural perspectives in Vietnam.
Looking at the graphs from Google Trend, we can see that more people are looking for the information on the subject. Before 2012, “same-sex marriage” did not even exist. The Internet does not only help the general public to gain a better understanding of this community, and their struggles; but it also helps people within the LGBTs to find support, and find themselves. Put in the words of a member from this LGBTs community, “if we want to find each other, we have to cast our voices together.” Social networking sites such as Facebook have made this easier for members within and outside the community to find, share stories, and support each other.
Moreover, it makes it harder for people who are reluctant to change to dismiss the change. Instead of using old cultural beliefs and established public authority, they should look around and see how the society has changed. Moreover, with new mobile technology such as a smart phone, everything they say must be backed carefully before it backfires on them.