Media coverage of LGBT events in Vietnam often reinforces stigmas of gay people as sick or depraved, or simply as individuals who have gone astray. The LGBT group Trung Tam ICS aims to construct an alternative image of LGBT people as strong, confident members of society who live full lives as ordinary citizens.
In early March, a Vietnamese court ruled that two men were guilty in the murder of an LGBT person, sentencing one to death by firing squad and the other to life imprisonment. The media’s coverage of the event was one that ICS believed to be misconstrued.
“We at ICS view this case as a fight against crime, in which our Criminal Code was enforced regardless of the victim’s sexual orientation or behavior,” a spokesperson for ICS told 429Magazine.
“ICS has been working a lot on building a fair and positive image of LGBT in the media, and we’re afraid that this piece of news might add a touch of stereotype to biased audience who still think homosexuality is a ‘social evil’. Some could read the article and assume that people who get into same-sex relationships do so for sex or money, not to mention the Vietnamese headline used for this case tended to attract readers towards the fact of victim being ‘a gay customer.’”
For ICS, the question of how to improve the public image in Vietnam has been a difficult one to answer.
“In Vietnam we pursue the work of public education and building an open space for dialogues between LGBT and non-LGBT people. We think most of stigma and discrimination among our people, including government officials, stem from an environment of heteronormativity and ignorance. Stigma against LGBT is less common in large cities and young generations, while the most popular source of LGBT intolerance come from their own families,” added the spokesperson.
At the same time, Vietnam has made increasing strides to embrace LGBT rights publicly. Last August, the country held its first gay pride parade in Hanoi. There are no laws against male and male or female and female sex.
Last July, the country’s Justice Minister launched a ‘consultation’ to legalize same sex marriage, which if enacted, would be the first in Asia.