There are about 160 individual nations in the world. Out of all of them, just more than two dozen offer, with the backing of official legislation, what is considered to be a vital right by the international LGBT community: same-sex marriage. These nations are mostly concentrated on the Americas and Europe, particularly the more liberal ones. They are an oasis compared to many parts of the world where LGBT couples face persecution at least and death at most. While some parts in Asia have no laws against same-sex relationships, none have provisions for performing or recognizing same-sex marriage; until now.
Technically it is still true that no Asian country will allow LGBT couples to lawfully wed, for as CNN reports, the territory that recently passed this law is Taiwan, considered part of China but with its own government. Their Legislative Yuan finally put the final period on an earlier decision by the Taiwanese Constitutional Court from two years ago. They had ruled that the existing marriage law which defined such a union solely for man and woman is unconstitutional. Lawmakers were given a two-year period to either change the law or add a new one. The Yuan would vote on their same-sex marriage bill Friday.
Thus on May 17, legislators of Taiwan voted this long-awaited bill into law, with only a week left before the Constitutional Court deadline. Effective May 24, same-sex marriage is legally recognized and can be performed in Taiwan. The local LGBT community had braved rainy weather to stand outside parliament in support of the bill being passed. There were three draft bills in consideration, two with minimal guarantees authored by conservative lawmakers and a third from the Cabinet; this one passed.
Taiwan is now the first place in Asia with a legal backing to the LGBT community for marriage, not like most of the region which is being seized up by conservatism resulting from religious fervor wearing down moderate secularism. It is well-known that the Sultan of Brunei has criminalized same-sex relationships with the punishment of death by stoning. More restrictive provinces of Indonesia institute corporal punishment for the same. Mainland China, while guaranteeing LGBT freedom, does not protect couples of the community from discriminatory practices by businesses and workplaces that has been entrenched in older Communist Party ideology. A writer of LGBT erotic fiction was recently arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison, though the charges were not clarified.
The new Taiwanese law is separate from conventional marriage. One of its provisions is the prohibition of Taiwanese from marrying same-sex foreigners hailing from nations that still crack down on LGBT. The conservative quarters of Taiwan society may also present a problem in the future.
Still, as Taiwan President Tsai Ing-Wen notes, “Today we have a chance to make history and show the world that progressive values can take root in an East Asian society.”
Image courtesy of NBC News