Opening remarks By Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator
Mr Huỳnh Quyết Thắng, Vice President, Hanoi University of Science and Technology,
Dear LGBTI+ community, partners, students and friends,
On behalf of the UN family in Viet Nam, I am very pleased to welcome you all here today to this celebration of diversity. Let me start by thanking the Hanoi University of Science and Technology for allowing us to host this event here, the Youth Union of the university for their organizational support and the global UN Free and Equal Campaign for their generous support. I want to thank also all our LGBTI+ partners and friends for contributing to making this an exciting and informative celebration.
We have called this event “Diversity Day” because today we celebrate the colorful mosaic that is human life in all its forms, shapes and sizes.
Today we celebrate unity in diversity.
We emphasize our individual uniqueness, how we stand out, in one way or another. Whether because of our complexion, whom we love, our opinions, gender, ability, how we look. You name it. We are, in that sense, all different.
Today, however, we are celebrating that our differences do not mean that we are separate or disconnected from each other. Far from it.
On the contrary, we are united in our diversity. In the words of the groundbreaking Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. This powerful principle expresses that regardless of whatever differences may divide us, we are all united as free and equal human beings.
Each year, on Human Rights Day on December 10, we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. This year the theme is youth standing up for human rights. Moreover, in late-November and early December, globally as well as here in Viet Nam, we engage in 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence. And just two days ago, the world celebrated the International Volunteer Day focused on volunteering for an inclusive future.
While different, these campaigns all highlight the crucial importance of ensuring inclusion and non-discrimination. They all embody the principle of our essential equality in dignity and rights.
Today we are celebrating and highlighting one source of this diversity, namely our different sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions. Today we want to celebrate those who stand out because of whom they love, how they identify or how they express their gender identity.
This is an area where Viet Nam has made important progress in recent years. For one, it is no longer prohibited for two persons of the same sex to get married. Moreover, significant strides have been made to develop a law to provide access to gender affirmation. We hope that this work will soon materialize into a law allowing transgender persons to legally change their gender marker without requiring medical intervention.
But despite this progress, it is also an area where more work is needed. People continue to face stigma and discrimination because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. This affects their access to many important social services including, significantly, education. Although more data is still needed, research shows, for example, that in schools LGBT students in Viet Nam face higher levels of gender-based violence than their peers and that education institutions are not safe for them.
To reduce stigma and discrimination here, as elsewhere, youth play a crucial role. Non-discrimination and inclusiveness start with you, the university students, the youth. You need to stand up against discrimination, stigma and gender-based violence. You also need to volunteer to support inclusiveness and to end prejudice.
Today we celebrate that despite our differences, we are all free and equal – we are all the same in ways such as freedom and equality which really matter. We celebrate what is eloquently expressed in the Vietnamese proverb – and I apologize for the English translation – that “despite being different species, winter melons and gourds are grown on the same structure and in the same place, so they should love each other”.
Allow me to conclude on this positive note by wishing everyone a happy Diversity Day. I hope that you will all have fun here today and enjoy all the many activities that you can join or just cheer on. And more importantly, I hope that your interactions and the information you will receive today will help make you all ambassadors of inclusiveness!
Thank you! Xin cảm ơn!