Last year, a landmark ruling in the United States Supreme Court legalised same sex marriage across the country. The US followed in the footsteps of other European countries, such as Scotland, Spain, Belgium, England, and most recently, Ireland. The same cannot be said for those who reside in Asian countries, but this may be about to change.
LGBTQI rights in Asia
Currently, acknowledgement of same sex marriage does not exist in any Asian country. Most do not recognise same sex marriages, even if they are administered in countries that allow such unions. Many do not even have anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation, and also do not allow those in same sex relationships to adopt children. Homosexual acts are illegal in 26 Asian countries as of May 2016, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. Several countries, such as Brunei, Yemen, and Iran, enact capital punishment if convicted of engaging in homosexual activities. Those in some other countries may face imprisonment.
Even though the laws do not exist in these countries as of yet, the Asian countries of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam are seen to be the most accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community.
What’s happening in Taiwan?
Yu Mei-Nu is a sponsor of a parliamentary bill that will allow same sex marriages to be legalised and therefore recognised in Taiwan. A similar bill was introduced in 2005 and 2013, but neither was passed successfully. This current bill, which is an amendment to Taiwan’s civil code, was approved on 26 December 2016, but the process will not be complete until mid 2017. Legislators have also drafted bills to “potentially offer those couples rights such as welfare benefits, joint property rights and shared custody of children.”
Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-Wen, “has spoken out in favor of same-sex marriage“, and has publicly done so since October 2016. Her party, the Democratic Progressive Party, currently has control of their Taiwanese parliament, and is known to be sympathetic to LGBT rights. Koashiung and Taipei, two cities in Taiwan, have already started to register same sex couples as of 2016. Though popular opinion is still divided on this issue, such a bill has proven to have overwhelming support from Taiwan’s younger citizens. Tseng Yen-Jung, on behalf of the Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, noted that in a recent survey, “80 percent of Taiwanese between the ages 20 – 29 support same-sex marriage”.
If all goes according to plan, Taiwan may legally recognise same sex marriage by the end of 2017.