- July 18, 2014
Post submitted by Yushuang Sun, HRC Global Engagement Intern
Packed full with a sea of waving arms and smiling faces donned in rainbow flags, the second annual ASEAN Music Festival took place in Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi. This event themed “ASEAN PRIDE: Celebrating Diversity” was hosted by the US Embassy, CAMA Vietnam, and a collection of local LGBT organizations in May 24.
With a new theme each year, this year ASEAN festival organizers responded to a key social issue in the Southeast Asian bloc: LGBT equality. The festival aimed to raise ASEAN Pride awareness, eliminate barriers to equality, end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and engage LGBT communities.
Thirteen bands from the ASEAN region took to the stage and the crowd had more than doubled in size to over 4,000 participants from its inaugural year.
“There is a tremendous energy here and an incredibly vibrant LGBT community working on policy, advocacy and social activism,” said Michael Turner, cultural affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy.
Although the nation has a poor human rights record, Vietnam has witnessed a burgeoning public display of LGBT movement in recent years. It was only two years ago that Hanoi held its first Pride event, and recent national surveys showed that a majority of Vietnamese supported legal rights for gay couples. Besides, on the first weekend of this incoming August, Hanoi will be celebrated the third annual Viet Pride bike rally under the theme of ‘Together’ to raise awareness of sexual diversity and to strengthen the voice of LGBT community in this traditionally conservative and patriarchal society.
But while supporters of LGBT rights have become more prominent over the years, the National Assembly has halted progress on the issue. The latest draft amendment to the Marriage and Family released in June removed Article 16 which would recognize same-sex couples. Only last year, Vietnam decriminalized same-sex wedding ceremonies and cohabitation.