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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
Novel breaks Vietnam's gay sex taboo
Hanoi
Tam learnt about Vietnam's gay scene working as a reporter

One of Vietnam's literary prizes has been won by the author of a crime novel centred around a homosexual love affair - normally a taboo topic in the country.

The novel, called A World Without Women, was written two years ago by journalist Bui Anh Tam.

Gay men holding hands
Alternative lifestyles are not widely discussed in Vietnam
He says he did not expect to win the Peace and Safety prize because his friends told him they had never seen the subject written about.

Topics such as homosexuality are simply not acknowledged in communist-ruled Vietnam.

The prize was awarded by Vietnam's police department, the ministry for public security and the Vietnam Writer's Association.

Under wraps

It is remarkable because much of Vietnam has a very conservative and traditional family-oriented culture.

Topics like gay sex, sexually transmitted diseases, wife-beating and child sexual abuse are simply not discussed.

Other controversial subjects, such as prostitution and drug abuse, are officially raged against in the social evils campaign.

The alternative lifestyles of gay men and women are less visible in the capital Hanoi than in the more liberal commercial centre Ho Chi Minh City.

It is where Mr Tam has had a long career as a crime reporter and now works for the city's police public relations unit.

Sympathetic light

Mr Tam said he first came across gay people in his work, entering what he called "their world" to write his crime reports.

He said he discovered a whole colourful world beyond the clichés about gay men and decided to write about them in a crime novel.

He says his friends commented on the strange theme of the book, but he wanted readers to understand gay people and to sympathise with them.

Details of his book and the $1,000 prize have been published in the English language state press - they are much less likely to appear in the Vietnamese language media.

See also:

01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
24 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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