May 182012
Duoc la chinh minh (Stereowoman), performed at the Youth Theatre of Viet Nam, marks the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17

A majority of homosexual students have suffered from communal discrimination and violence, including from their friends and teachers, according to experts addressing a workshop in the capital on Wednesday.

A recent survey conducted by the Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population on 520 homosexual, bisexual and transsexual people with an average age of 21 revealed that nearly 41 per cent had suffered from discrimination and violence at school or university.

Seventy per cent of them said they had been given offensive names, 38 per cent said they were treated unfairly, 19 per cent claimed to have been beaten and 18 per cent sexually harassed.

The reasons cited for ill treatment included the students dressing or behaving in a “different way” while seemingly having feelings for people of the same sex.

According to the survey, half of the students suffered from constant fear and nervousness and came to hate themselves for their different sexual tendencies, while 20 per cent lost the motivation to go to school and 36 per cent isolated themselves.

More seriously, 35 per cent of those claiming they had been ill-treated said they had considered committing suicides, half of them saying they had actually tried to take their own lives.

“It saddens me to see so many people losing hope for the future at such a young, innocent age,” said Hoang Tu Anh, director of the Centre for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP), pointing out that nearly 40 per cent of those surveyed suffered from identity confusion.

Tu Anh also pointed out that homosexual youngsters were often treated unfairly by their teachers who thought homosexuality was some kind of disease.

She recounted the story of a student called “abnormal” by his teacher in front of the whole class, an embarrassing experience that haunted him for the rest of his life.

Motivated by the situation, a society called the Sexual Rights Alliance on May 14 sent a letter to Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan demanding action to prevent violence against homosexual students at educational institutions.

The alliance consists of six non-governmental organisations including the CCIHP, the Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (ISEE), the Centre for Family Health and Community Research (CEFACOM) and the Rutgers World Population Foundation in Viet Nam.

The letter additionally proposed integrating education about sexual tendencies in school curricula to raise people’s awareness about homosexuality.

While awaiting the Minister’s response to their letter, the alliance has organised different activities to raise social awareness, including play and training courses about gender, sexuality and health.

“What we hope for is an environment where everyone respects people’s differences,” said Dr. Vu Pham Nguyen Thanh, a researcher from CEFACOM, who added that discrimination against homosexuals was a problem facing the whole of society.

IDAHO was begun by the Joint United Nations Programmme on HIV/AIDS.

This year’s theme is “Combating Homophobia In Education and Through Education”.

UNAIDS said the day was launched to celebrate diversity and to speak out against discrimination and violence.

The growing number of events in Viet Nam every year held on the occasion is an indication of the growing confidence of the LGBT community and the openness and tolerance emerging in the country, according to Eamonn Murphy, UNAIDS Viet Nam Country Director.

“UNAIDS is full of hope as the LGBT communities in Viet Nam are speaking out more strongly about their rights and contributions to society,” said Murphy.

Homophobic bullying is a global problem and adversely affects young people’s mental and psychological health.

Murphy quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as saying that it was “a moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis”.