A happy Pride Month to you! It is a wonderful feeling to see other articles and organizations marking the occasion by coloring their logos with the rainbow spectrum. Such a sweet gesture! Most of you probably know that in 2019, Taiwan became Asia’s first country to accept same-sex marriages and celebrate Pride. The parade, however, may be postponed to next year by local authorities because of the rise in cases in Taiwan and other countries. Now, let’s talk about what led Taiwan to give freedom to the LGBTQ+ community and become the first Asian country to do so.
The long way for the bill to proceed
The road to coming up with the new law legalizing same-sex marriage took years of fighting, speaking out, and recognizing. In 2003, the Taiwanese parliament began introducing the bills, but they met with strong opposition. Ten years later, LGBT supporters sued for equal marriage rights, counseled by Evan Wolfson, an LGBT rights supporter, and attorney. (Han & O’Mahoney, 2019)
In 2017, Taiwan’s Constitutional Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to lead to legally marry. Also, the Constitutional Court redresses the public backlash that led to the ban on same-sex marriage, a violation of equal rights and freedoms under the Constitution. A majority of voters rejected the idea of allowing a referendum on same-sex marriage in some areas. Basically, they insisted that marriage could not be distinct from it since only a man and a woman can marry.
This eventually led to a turn of events. Taiwan has enacted a special law to allow the LGBTQ+ community to register their unions as marriages. Also, the government still keeps the existing definition of marriage in civil law. (BBC, 2019)
What does Taiwan’s decision mean to the rest of Asia?
Other Asian countries are likely to look to Taiwan’s acceptance of LGBTQ+ freedom as an inspiration for their own governments to do the same. Hong Kong, an autonomous island, calls on its government to follow Taiwan’s example. In September 2018, the Hong Kong government started to grant visas for same-sex spouses after the pass of Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal legalizing same-sex partnerships. (Han & O’Mahoney, 2019)
The annual Taiwan Pride parade gathers all individuals from around the world to join and celebrate the publicity of the LGBTQ+ community and their basic rights become normalized like other people. The Singaporean Paul Ng, who participated in the Taiwan Pride parade, expressed that even though he is not Taiwanese, the feeling of freedom for homosexuals burns within him. “For Singaporeans, this is especially important because our government likes to go on and on about preserving ‘Asian’ values… so this sends a very important message to other developed nations in Asia.”
The Indian government decriminalized homosexuality in 2018, despite a century-old law prohibiting it. Hindus, India’s largest religious group, have also discussed the possibility of same-sex marriage. India has a variety of laws governing marriage, which differ according to many religions. There have been transgender weddings at religious ceremonies as well.
Thailand’s government had decriminalized homosexuality in 1956 and approved a bill in July 2020. This giving chances for same-sex unions to access benefits the same as heterosexual marriages in this Buddhist country well known for its sexual freedom.
Following Nepal, China, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Bhutan have gradually accepted LGBTQ+ people, but have yet to take a further step towards their legal recognition. (Joseph, 2020)
The journey to global legal recognition is still halfway
Many parts of the world now recognize the LGBTQ+ community as brave, special, and determined. Yet other parts of the country refused to accept them. A number of Asian countries follow the same laws laid down in section number 377, a part of a penal code from the colonial era.
Brunei, a former British colony until 1984, released stricter laws towards same-sex unions can be punished to death. George Clooney and Elton John on a trip to Brunei had called for a boycott to a hotel for not accepting same-sex rights. (Han & O’Mahoney, 2019)
The advocacy from Pope Francis
The Catholic Church always keeps the disapproval of same-sex unions and their legalization, and defined as “against the rule of nature”, as “God creates us as men and women”.
However, Pope Francis had shown his support to same-sex relationships in a documentary, whereas going against the Vatican’s value to stand against any recognition of homosexual unions. Pope Francis expressed his thoughts in an interview of the film, “Homosexual people have the right to be in a family. They are children of God.”, “What we have to do is a civil union law; that way, they are legally covered.
The Vatican stated that Pope Francis had not deviated from the Church’s official stance but still insisted on the idea that families should not abandon people having different sexual orientations.
When being asked on World Youth Day in July 2013, whether a same-sex union is sinful, Pope Francis insisted on his belief, “Who am I to judge gay people?”. (Joseph, 2020)
Although there is still a long way to go before the LGBTQ+ community is recognized and harmonized into basic rights as heterosexuals, Pope Francis’ support has become a moral ringing bell that enlivens LGBTQ+ everywhere.
BBC. (2019, May 19). Taiwan gay marriage: Parliament legalises same-sex unions. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48305708
Han, E., & O’Mahoney, J. (2019, May 25). What will Taiwan’s same-sex marriages mean in the rest of Asia? Retrieved from The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/05/25/what-will-taiwans-same-sex-marriages-will-mean-rest-asia/
Joseph, B. (2020, December 17). More Asian nations open to same-sex marriage. Retrieved from UCA News: https://www.ucanews.com/news/more-asian-nations-open-to-same-sex-marriage/90730#