ICS was founded in 2008 as a group of volunteers who were administrators and moderators from the 5 largest LGBT online forums in Vietnam. With financial assistance from Ford Foundation and technical assistance from iSEE, ICS changed negative portrayals of Vietnamese LGBT people in the media. From 2011, ICS started to work as an organization for LGBT people and by LGBT people. Our mission is to unite and empower Vietnamese LGBT people to live positively and to advocate for and defend their human rights. We believe in a society where sexual minorities are treated equally and where everyone can live as who they are and are able to contribute their best to the development of society. From 2013, ICS started organizing talkshows, training sessions about LGBT and sexual diversity with participants who were students and young people. We have been working with teachers and students from 20 universities and colleges. Together with building leadership and providing technical support to local LGBT leaders and straight allies, these activities expand to high schools, clubs and training courses for the youth. From the beginning of 2015 till now, ICS conducted the sessions in 5 schools with over 3,500 students and teachers. ICS is also working with UNESCO for sexuality education advocacy.
Key achievements ICS:
• Successfully raised the profile of LGBT issues in Vietnam. The debate has been shifted from 'Do LGBT people exist in Vietnam and they normal?' to 'How to protect their rights'. In May 2013, for the first time, Members of the National Assembly dialogued with the LGBT community and their families. The challenges faced by LGBT people are now widely discussed and debated in the media, and by different government agencies at various levels.
• The visibility and pride of LGBT communities in Vietnam is increasing, also thanks to our public events: such as a flashmob, Love is Love: Diversity Festival, which attracted thousands of LGBT participants and supporters and was widely covered by the media. In May 2013, Awakening to the Rainbow, an event to celebrate International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), was organized in four major cities of Vietnam – Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho and with over 3,000 participants.
• Inspired by ICS, LGBT communities in different parts of Vietnam have come together to form groups or organizations and have joined the advocacy process.
• We have created a network of journalists who are supportive of sexual diversity and equal rights for LGBT people. Five years ago, over 40% of articles about LGBT issues were stigmatizing and gave negative portrayals of the LGBT experience. Nowadays, the majority of articles are objective and supportive. In April 2013, Tuoi Tre, one of the most popular and influential daily newspapers in Vietnam, ran this title “Many proposals supportive of same sex marriage” as the major headline on its cover page.
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Diana van Oort
Living in Vietnam is never boring!