The Vietnamese government repealed a ban on same-sex marriage on New Year’s Day.

While the government does not officially recognise or provide legal protections for same-sex marriages, weddings can now take place without the threat of fines.

It is seen by many as a move designed to promote Vietnam’s image as a tolerant and accepting country, and boost tourism especially from LGBT travelers. It is the first country in South East Asia to make such a move.

Singapore’s courts upheld its anti-gay laws in October, parts of Indonesia punish homosexuality with 100 lashes, and Brunei passed a law calling for gays to be stoned to death.

Jamie Gillen, a researcher at the National University of Singapore told the Bangkok Post: “This makes Vietnam a leader in Asia. Singapore just reaffirmed its ban on homosexual behaviours. Vietnam is trying to pitch itself as a tolerant and safe country.”

Luong The Huy, a legal advisor for Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment, a minority rights organisation in Hanoi said: “They say the society in Vietnam needs some time to accept gay and lesbians in general. The revision in the law signals to the country that “same-sex marriage is not harmful to society.”

He also spoke about the positive influence of the new US Ambassador to Vietnam, Ted Osius, who arrived in December with his husband and is the first gay US ambassador to an Asian county. Mr Huy said: “He promotes a very good image of a very successful person who is gay. We could get more support from civil society in Vietnam because the American ambassador is gay.”