Vietnam to host first gay pride parade

HANOI - Vietnam is to host its first gay pride parade this weekend, event organisers said Friday, after the communist country's justice minister said it was time to consider legalising same-sex marriage.

The parade, organised by Hanoi's small but growing Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, will see people cycling through the centre of the capital city early Sunday morning.

"The parade is confirmed," project developer Tam Nguyen told AFP, adding she was not authorised to say whether the event had received official permission to go ahead.

"We are expecting around 150 people. It is not the first gay pride event in Asia but we think it is the first in Vietnam," Tam said.

The parade website warns participants to "consider his/her personal circumstances and the risks possibly involved before participation".

While it is not illegal, homosexuality remains largely taboo in communist Vietnam, where Confucian social mores - with their emphasis on tradition and family - still dominate.

Gays are routinely portrayed in the media as comical figures or as people suffering from a condition that can be treated.

Authoritarian Vietnam also tightly restricts demonstrations and public protests are routinely broken up by police.

But in a surprise move late last month, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong, said that it might be time to consider a change in the law to recognise same sex marriage.

Since the National Assembly moved to amend the law on marriage and family, "there have been active discussions on whether to admit or not - or in some ways to legalise - marriage (between people) of the same sex," he said in comments posted on the government website on July 24.

Vietnam's law on marriage and the family currently forbids same sex unions. Any move to legalise gay marriage would make Vietnam the first nation in Asia to do so.

Whether or not the government legalised same-sex marriage, Cuong said it was important to break down social prejudice against same sex relationships and offer legal protection to same-sex couples who cohabit.

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