Vietnam Recognizes Transgender Identity Rights

Jessica Nguyen at her workplace.
Jessica Nguyen at her workplace.
Nguyen Hoang Thien
Revised Civil Code legalizes gender identity following surgery
“Recognizing this right to gender reassignment helps me and other transgender people feel acknowledged by society and more confident to pursue better positions at work.”

November 2016—Jessica Nguyen had gender reassignment surgery, but for years her passport and identification did not reflect this important change in her gender identity. Potential employers would not hire her because they did not know how to classify her, as male or female. Her employment search became an experience in stigma and discrimination.

In November 2015, Nguyen was among thousands of transgender people across Vietnam who welcomed the National Assembly’s revised Civil Code which, among other reforms, legalizes gender recognition for transgender people undergoing sex reassignment surgery.

“I was so happy and moved when this law was passed by the National Assembly,” said Nguyen. “Recognizing this right to gender reassignment helps me and other transgender people feel acknowledged by society and more confident to pursue better positions at work. I hope that gradually this will help reduce discrimination, and people will treat us as normal people.”

The revised Civil Code marks a turning point in the country’s movement to improve individual rights, including personal identity, equality in marriage, and employment. Nguyen will now be able to show official documents matching her gender identity, and expanding her employment opportunities and access to health services.

USAID, through its Governance for Inclusive Growth program, worked with the Ministry of Justice, National Assembly, and a number of local civil society organizations representing vulnerable groups to consult on the revisions of the Civil Code.

Vu Cong Giao from the Institute of Public Policy and Law describes the Civil Code as Vietnam’s legal foundation for promoting democracy and ensuring social equality and human rights. The drafting process benefited “by bringing representation of transgender individuals into [public] consultations on revisions to the Civil Code … to hear and consider the real voices and cases of the transgender community,” he said.

The revised Civil Code was drafted by the Ministry of Justice and enacted by the National Assembly on Nov. 24, 2015. It will come into force on Jan. 1, 2017.

USAID’s Governance for Inclusive Growth program, which runs from 2013 to 2018, is implemented by Chemonics International. The program works with the Government of Vietnam to support trade, legal and regulatory reforms, governance and inclusive economic growth.

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Last updated: November 27, 2017

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