Dozens of cyclists decorated with balloons and rainbow flags streamed through the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on Sunday for the first gay pride parade in the nation's history.
Organised by the city's small but growing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, the event went ahead peacefully with no attempt by police to stop the colourful convoy of about 100 activists, despite their lack of official permits.
The parade follows recent gay pride celebrations in Myanmar and Laos, reflecting signs of liberalising social attitudes in parts of Southeast Asia.
Homosexuality remains largely taboo in Vietnam, where Confucian social mores with their emphasis on tradition and family still dominate society.
Homosexuals are routinely portrayed in the media as comical figures, or as people suffering from a condition that can be treated.
In a surprise move late last month, Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong said that it might be time to consider a change in the law to recognise same-sex marriage.
Vietnam currently forbids same-sex unions. Were it to legalise the practice, it would become the first Asian country to do so.
Activists said that they had modified the parade route after coming under pressure from police to avoid sensitive areas of the capital where anti-China demonstrations were taking place.
"We don't have permission for this and even if we had asked for official permission it would not have been possible," said Van Anh, to the AFP news agency.
"But we have a lot of support from Vietnamese society. Many people told me they want to attend the parade," she added.
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|Allen L. Jasson|
|William A. Cook|