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Advice for gay and lesbian travellers

Vietnam is splashed with color, from verdant rice fields, hot pink lanterns and day-glo boutiques, to the increasing visibility of gays and lesbians adding their own special hues to Vietnam’s rainbow.

Vietnam is a place to have fun, but also a place to use your common sense since the gay world here is still largely in the shadows and, as a result, some prey on the vulnerability of gay tourists. Nevertheless, no one should miss a chance to encounter the amazingly friendly Vietnamese, to learn about their rich culture and enjoy their warm hospitality!

There have never been official laws against homosexual activity in Vietnam. However, in May, 2002, state-run media labeled declared that homosexuality was a "social evil" on par with drug use and prostitution and proposed laws to allow the arrest of gay couples. Police raided a gay sauna in Saigon in November, 2002, and arrested and harassed law-abiding adults there, requiring them to take re-education classes even though they had not broken any laws.

A report by the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs said the number of gay couples is on the rise, though it offered no statistics. The government reported that homosexuals have infiltrated the tourism, restaurant and karaoke bar industries and that their "eccentric behavior" went hand in hand with prostitution, drug use and HIV/AIDS. However, hopeful signs are emerging as well: the Communist Youth Newspaper carried a story in November 2002 about homosexuality that stated "some people are born gay, just as some people are born left-handed".

Shamefully, authorities turn a blind eye to real crimes that target gay men and visitors such as organized rip-offs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Homosexuality is not a crime, but blackmail is, so do contact the police if you are being threatened by a scam artist.


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