Workshop: “International experiences on personal and property issues of transgender persons”

Opening Remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Ramla Khalidi

September 20, 2023

Ms Ramla Khalidi, Resident Representative, UNDP in Viet Nam

UNDP in Viet Nam

- Dear Ms Le Thi Hoang Thanh, Deputy Director General of the Department of Civil and Economic Law of the Ministry of Justice 
- Mr Conor Finn, Deputy Head of Mission, Ireland embassy in Viet Nam
- Distinguished guest speakers from the Governments of Pakistan, Ireland, and Japan
- Distinguished representatives of government agencies, development partners and the transgender community in Viet Nam

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my honour to welcome you to today’s event “International experiences on personal and property issues of transgender persons” co-hosted by the Ministry of Justice and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Viet Nam. On behalf of UNDP in Viet Nam, I would like to express our gratitude to the Department of Civil and Economic Laws of the Ministry of Justice for their earnest efforts to bring us all together today. 

Let me start by congratulating the Government of Viet Nam, and the National Assembly Deputy, Mr. Nguyễn Anh Trí--the penholder of the Gender Affirmation Law for the good progress toward the development of the first transgender law in Viet Nam. This is a significant step in the implementation of the Civil Code, amended in 2015, which introduced Article 37 recognizing the right to gender reassignment. 

Ladies, and gentlemen,

75 years ago, in the aftermath of two devastating world wars, a transformative moment saw the birth of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It proclaims a simple but powerful idea: That all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. That is the first sentence of Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. This is unconditional, and includes transgender persons who are entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration without distinction. 

The principle of non-discrimination is also a cornerstone of the UN Charter and is reaffirmed in all human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights (ICESCR), both of which Viet Nam ratified in 1982. 

Furthermore, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals would be incomplete without the inclusion of transgender persons. “Leave No One Behind” is the core principle of the 2030 Agenda, and the compass to guide us on our journey to achieve all 17 SDGs.

Dear friends,

The discussions we are having today are ones that many countries around the world are grappling with. They are admittedly sometimes difficult conversations. What we hope is that today’s workshop will facilitate an open and honest knowledge exchange with countries that have gone through similar legal developments and foster dialogue among policy makers, transgender community, and academia about remaining challenges in safeguarding the protection and inclusion of the (usually invisible) sector of the population. 

Why is this important?

The UN and others have documented widespread physical and psychological violence against transgender persons around the world. People who identify as transgender have frequently been dismissed as suffering from mental or behavioural disorders. Paradoxically, the inability to live according to one’s self-identified gender often leads to distress, exacerbating other forms of physical and mental health. This misperception remains a root cause of discrimination and violations against persons who identify as transgender or gender diverse.

Transgender persons are at particular risk of being bullied in educational settings, rejected by their family, and discriminated within their communities. They often become victims of violence in health-care settings, where they may encounter unethical and harmful so-called therapies to change sexual orientation, involuntary sterilizations, or other coercive intrusive medical interventions. 

Transgender persons also continue to encounter significant obstacles because their identity documents do not match their lived gender identity. As a result, their access to healthcare, housing, employment opportunities, education, among other rights and services are affected by the inability to change their legal gender marker.

I look forward to learn about the experiences of three different countries (Japan, Pakistan, and Ireland) each of which has embarked on their own journeys in advancing legal recognition and social acceptance of transgender persons, with a focus on the fields of personal and property rights. We understand that each country context is unique. And we also know that there is much to learn from the experiences of others; from their successes and failures along this journey. To the distinguished guests from Ireland, Pakistan and Japan: Thank you for being willing to share your experiences.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today’s workshop is organized in the context of Hanoi Pride Week. A week marked by the celebration of love, diversity, and inclusion. Inspired by this positive and vibrant spirit, we look forward to having a rich and constructive dialogue to help inform Viet Nam’s own journey on the drafting of the Gender Affirmation Law.

In closing, please allow me to acknowledge the support of the Embassy of Ireland for their consistent commitment to inclusive governance and sustainable development in Viet Nam. We at UNDP in Viet Nam, along with the entire UN family, stand ready to assist the national efforts in making inclusion, non-discrimination, and equal opportunities a reality for all. Our collective commitment to the SDGs and our efforts to reach those furthest behind first simply cannot be met until transgender persons are treated as equals under the law -- and in their everyday lives.

Thank you for joining us today and I wish you a fruitful and meaningful discussion!