Vietnam's Communist government is considering whether to legalize gay marriage. If approved, Vietnam would become the first country in Asia to do so.

The AP reported that the country's Justice Ministry is considering including gay couples in its overhaul of Vietnam's marriage law.

“I think, as far as human rights are concerned, it's time for us to look at the reality,” said Justice Minister Ha Hung Cuong on Tuesday. “The number of homosexuals has mounted to hundreds of thousands. It's not a small figure. They live together without registering marriage. They may own property. We, of course, have to handle these issues legally.”

The move stunned regional gay rights activists.

“I think everyone is surprised,” said Vien Tanjung, an Indonesian gay rights activist. “Even if it's not successful, it's already making history. For me, personally, I think it's going to go through.”

Being gay in Vietnam can result in a jail sentence or whipping with a rattan cane, the AP noted.

With an estimated 91.5 million inhabitants, Vietnam ranks as the world's 13th most-populous nation.

Gay rights activists in Hanoi will hold the country's first gay pride parade on August 5.

The Justice Ministry will first consider the opinions from the public along with government agencies before deciding whether to recommend marriage or some other legal recognition for gay couples to the National Assembly.