HANOI: Dozens of cyclists decorated with balloons and rainbow flags streamed through the Vietnamese capital Hanoi on Sunday for the first-ever gay pride parade in the communist state.
The event, organised by the city’s small but growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colourful convoy of about 100 activists.
“It’s time to eliminate discrimination against people of different sexuality. I am straight, but my cousin is a lesbian,” said participant Kyle Tran, 19, wearing a red headband saying “I love LGBT”.
Homosexuality remains largely taboo in communist 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 recognise same-sex marriage.
Vietnam currently forbids same-sex unions. Any move to legalise gay marriage would make Vietnam the first nation in Asia to do so.
“There is a lot of attention on gay rights issues now,” parade participant 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.
“We don’t have permission for this and even if we had asked for official permission it would not have been possible,” said participant 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.
Channel News Asia