The Health Ministry in Vietnam called for medical workers in the country to stop discriminating against LGBT individuals on Tuesday as the country adopts progressive global standards regarding homosexuality and queer issues.

The Ministry emphasized that being gay or transgender is not a mental illness and pushed for the end of conversion therapy and other practices that discriminate and harm the country’s LGBT community in an official document released to the public, according to the South China Morning Post.

“Do not consider homosexuality, bisexuality or being transgender a disease,” the statement read.

The new ruling is seen as a significant step forward by the LGBT community and activists in the country with regard to the acknowledgment of their civil rights, though many wonder how the new policy will be enforced in the country, al-Jazeera reported.

“This announcement that being LGBT is not a disease and condemning the practice of conversion therapy, this is like a dream,” activist and The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy, and Environment LGBT program manager Phong Vuong said.

“It is something that we never thought would have happened, let alone coming from the most trusted source for medical information in Vietnam … I think the impact on queer youth will be very, very evident.”

Though Vietnam is seen as a relatively-progressive place in Asia regarding LGBT rights, many pro-LGBT policies have yet to be fully pushed by the administration in spite of support. For example, though the ban on same-sex unions was lifted in 2015, no laws since then have given full legal recognition to such unions.

“It’s not like one day the Ministry woke up and decided it’s time to do this … It took years of effort,” LGBT rights advocate Linh Ngo said. “Vietnam is very open right now and has a lot of potential for LGBTI rights but there is not yet any civil protection.”

Still, many are wondering and worrying as to how these policies will take effect and help the LGBT community in the long run, as conversion therapy continues to be a problem for queer Vietnamese youths across the country.

“The spectre of conversion therapy hangs in every queer Vietnamese person’s household,” a trans Vietnamese youth who has remained unnamed said. “It is one of the most common things that my friends and I have talked about in terms of why we choose to disclose or not disclose.”

“Far too often effective enforcement fails in Vietnam,” Human Rights Watch Asia deputy director Phil Robertson said. “Uprooting anti-LGBT beliefs in traditional Vietnamese society will require concerted effort … It’s not like just issuing an order and ‘presto’ everything changes overnight.”

A recent announcement by the Health Ministry of Vietnam asks for medical workers to stop discriminating against LGBT people in what many activists in the country see as a win for LGBT rights. This is a representational image. Mercedes Mehling/Unsplash.

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