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Transgender rights to remain in limbo

VietNamNet Bridge – Transgender people are not likely to be legally recognised in the upcoming amended Civil Code, said the National Assembly Law Committee at its regular meeting with the National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday

VietNamNet Bridge – Transgender people are not likely to be legally recognised in the upcoming amended Civil Code, said the National Assembly Law Committee (NALC) at its regular meeting with the National Assembly Standing Committee yesterday, August 18.


National Assembly Law Committee Chairman Phan Trung Ly. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Hoa


The controversial issue was constantly brought up at the previous National Assembly meeting in May.

Discussions then centred around whether the amended Civil Code should give transgender people personal rights equal to those of other sexes. The NALC decided to exclude the recognition issue from the draft law due to "lack of legal framework".

"The problem is that we have yet to acknowledge same-sex marriage. If we recognise transgender entity now, it might conflict with the Law of Marriage and Family," said Party Central Committee's Commission for Internal Affairs Deputy Chairman Nguyen Doan Khanh.

"For example, if one spouse decides to change his or her gender, would the couple's marriage still be valid?"

Family relationships could also be complicated if children were unsure how to address their parents, especially in front of other people.

In Viet Nam, there are an estimated 500,000 transgender people of whom about 600 have had surgery to let certain sexual traits dominate.

About 20 countries now recognise change-of-sex operations and the new sexuality it provides. Five of these countries are in Asia - Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.

Surname length

In previous heated debate on a proposal to amend the Civil Code to limit the length of surnames and middle names and to require that the total number of letters in the name be no more than 25, the NALC decided to call off the draft regulation.

They said that many people had said the proposal interfered with citizens' personal freedoms. "The proposal is not in line with the Constitution," said National Assembly Law Committee Chairman Phan Trung Ly.

Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong agreed that the draft proposal was unjustifiable. However, he suggested local authorities advise residents that long names could be hard to process by civil authorities.

Port authority

A proposal to establish a port management board (PMB) was seen as a breakthrough in the amended Maritime Code brought up for discussion at the National Assembly Standing Committee on the same day.

According to the Ministry of Transport, the board would be a State-run enterprise assigned by the Government to plan and manage new seaports initially - and at all ports across Viet Nam in the future.

"The PMB will be independent of the local authority and the maritime administration," said Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang. "They will help keeping the planning work at the ports in sync so that investment in those ports can bring out the best benefits."

Under the current management model, any investment in infrastructure or logistics at a seaport can be carried out as long as the investors get a licence from local authorities.

"That makes the investment fragmented, unfocused and therefore ineffective," said Thang.

The VND12.8 trillion (US$587 million) Cai Mep-Thi Vai international seaport in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau was an example of that kind of investment, said National Assembly Law Committee Chairman Phan Trung Ly.

"Despite all the talk, the port only has docks from 30 to 40 metres long, just enough for one ship," Ly said. "How can the port run effectively with that kind of dock?"

Thang said the operation of the PMBs was expected to stop irresponsible licensing by local authorities.



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