No recog­ni­tion of sex re­as­sign­ment surgery pro­longs dis­crim­i­na­tion

Our le­gal sys­tem should pro­tect the rights of peo­ple opt­ing for gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery, le­gal ex­pert Löông Theá Huy told the news­pa­per in t o t (Econ­omy & Ur­ban Af­fairs)

Viet Nam News - - Opinion -

From the le­gal stand point, will you please give us an over­view of the lives of peo­ple who have had gen­der re­as­sign­ment surg­eries and the dif­fi­cul­ties they are fac­ing?

It is gen­er­ally per­ceived that in­di­vid­u­als who have had gen­der re­as­sign­ments done typ­i­cally work in the entertainment in­dus­try or in low-paid jobs. Ac­cord­ing to a study con­ducted by the In­sti­tute for Stud­ies of So­ci­ety, Econ­omy and En­vi­ron­ment (iSEE in 2012, these peo­ple face nu­mer­ous dif­fi­cul­ties and chal­lenges in their lives, in the fam­ily, schools, jobs, health, le­gal af­fairs and oth­ers. Even in their own fam­i­lies, other mem­bers refuse to ac­cept their gen­der re­as­sign­ment. In school, their class­mates and even their teach­ers keep away from them. As a re­sult, many of them have to give up school­ing. Work­ing in low paid jobs, they don’t have ac­cess to friendly health-care ser­vices. That has se­ri­ously af­fected their health.

In the field of le­gal af­fairs, peo­ple hav­ing their sex re­as­sign­ment done are de­nied their le­gal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion as male/fe­male. This has caused big prob­lems for them in daily life. For ex­am­ple, be­fore a flight they have to show their IDs. But the ID and ap­pear­ance does not match.

Will you please fur­ther elab­o­rate about the lim­ited le­gal ac­cess for peo­ple hav­ing their sex re­as­sign­ments done?

Le­gal chal­lenges fac­ing them should be con­sid­ered “a big wall.” These chal­lenges could be sum­marised in three ways. Firstly, to have their name changed ac­cord­ing to their sex re­as­sign­ment. Se­condly they should get their sex re­as­sign­ment surgery done. And fi­nally, their sex re­as­sign­ment should be re­flected in their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments fol­low­ing the surgery.

Many peo­ple re­turn­ing from abroad af­ter their sex re­as­sign­ment surg­eries can­not change what is writ­ten in their old doc­u­ments though they have spent a big sum of money for the surgery. And they be­come an “ in­vis­i­ble ” group of peo­ple as their body (their gen­der) no longer matches the in­for­ma­tion in the old doc­u­ments. This is a big para­dox that must be amended im­me­di­ately in our Civil Code. What do other coun­tries do with peo­ple hav­ing their sex re­as­sign­ment?

The law in most coun­tries of Europe, Amer­ica and Asia has ac­knowl­edged the right of per­sons to change their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion af­ter sex re­as­sign­ments.

What are your sug­ges­tions to amend the Civil Code to in­clude equal rights for peo­ple hav­ing their sex re­as­sign­ment?

In the amend­ment we should add a pro­vi­sion al­low­ing these peo­ple a) to change their names in con­form­ity with their de­sired sex b) to ac­knowl­edge their rights to have gen­der re­as­sign­ment ac­cord­ing to their wish c) to ac­knowl­edge their new gen­der and d) to al­low them to change their gen­der in their per­sonal iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments fol­low­ing the surgery.

If their new gen­der sta­tus is of­fi­cially recog­nised, do you think it will help ad­min­is­tra­tive agen­cies to per­form their du­ties eas­ier?

To my knowl­edge, quite a few peo­ple hav­ing their sex re­as­sign­ment surg­eries don’t have any doc­u­ments which cer­tify that their gen­der has been changed. I’m sure no ad­min- is­tra­tive of­fice wants such a sit­u­a­tion to hap­pen. I think that ac­cept­ing peo­ple who have their sex re­as­sign­ments done and re­flect­ing it in their per­sonal IDs will help govern­ment of­fices to per­form their du­ties bet­ter, par­tic­u­larly as we are about to in­tro­duce many new tools, in­clud­ing the 12 dig­i­tal IDs and the uni­fied per­sonal data na­tion­wide.

Some peo­ple have op­posed the right of peo­ple to change their gen­der on the ground that the Act is against Viet­namese tra­di­tions. What is your po­si­tion?

I re­spect our tra­di­tions. How­ever, quite a lot of what we are prac­tis­ing in so­ci­ety these days did not con­form with Viet­namese tra­di­tions in the past. What about women par­tic­i­pat­ing in more so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties or young men and women be­ing free to choose their life­time part­ners etc?

I’m con­fi­dent that our cul­ture is be­com­ing pro­gres­sive. What is more im­por­tant is that changes help make peo­ple hap­pier and give them more free­dom. That is why it is im­por­tant that the law takes a step be­fore the so­ci­ety changes. The mis­sion of the law is to ori­ent and serve them. —

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