Being gay, bisexual or transgender should not be considered an illness and cannot be
treated, the Vietnam government has announced in “a huge paradigm shift” in
LGBTQ+ rights in the country.
The Ministry of Health said medical professionals should treat LGBTQ+ people with
respect and ensure they are not discriminated against.
In an announcement sent to provincial and municipal health departments earlier this
month, and posted on the government website, the ministry said being LGBTQ+ “is
entirely not an illness” so it “cannot be ‘cured’ nor need[s] to be ‘cured’ and cannot be
converted in any way”.
It said that medics should not “interfere nor force treatment” on LGBTQ+ patients.
If any support is needed, “it must be in the form of psychological assistance and
performed only by those who have the knowledge of sexual identity”, said the
The breakthrough follow years of campaigning by LGBTQ+ rights groups. In
November, the Leave with Pride campaign from the Institute for Studies of Society,
Economy, and Environment (iSEE) petitioned the World Health Organization in
Vietnam to affirm that being gay is not a disease. In a video, the iSEE posed the
question: If queerness is a disease, shouldn’t LGBT+ Vietnamese be able to get sick
In April, the WHO’s representative in Vietnam, Kidong Park, issued a statement
confirming that any attempt to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ+ people
“lacks medical basis and is unacceptable”.
“We cannot overstate how big a fix this announcement is,” said Kyle Knight, a senior
researcher of health and LGBTQ+ rights at Human Rights Watch. “While attitudes
won’t change overnight, this marks a huge paradigm shift. As the most trusted source
of medical authority in Vietnam, the impact on social perceptions of queerness will
“The myth that homosexuality is diagnosable has been allowed to permeate and
percolate Vietnamese society. It is an underpinning factor in medical malpractice
against LGBTQ+ youth.”
iSEE and LGBTQ+ rights group ICS Center is now calling for legislation to allow
same-sex marriage in the country.