by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

Taiwan legalizes gay marriage

24 May, 2019

by Madalina Olteanu, Bucharest

With Asia being a continent where the death penalty for homosexuality is still implemented, the legalization of gay marriage in Taiwan comes both as a shock and as a ray of sunshine in the dark – after all, there is still hope for inclusion when it comes to LGBT members, even in religious countries.

Given the context, you may be wondering how this was possible. It all started in 2017, when the highest court in Taiwan ruled in favor of gay marriage, saying that it is unconstitutional to forbid it, as it violates the citizens’ right to equality. According to the court’s conclusion, “such different treatment is incompatible with the spirit and meaning of the right to equality”. Thus, the Parliament was forced to either amend existing laws, or to create new ones in the next two years.

This was met with a lot of skepticism and disapproval, as the country’s conservatives demanded a series of referendums to vote regarding this change. Predictably, the majority of voters refused to allow the legalization of same-sex marriage, but it was not enough – it was decided that the civil law definition of marriage would thus remain unchanged, but that a special law would be enacted to legalize same-sex marriages.

Later on, three different bills were discussed, and the most progressive one, which is the government’s bill, was passed. This was the only bill to offer adoption rights, while the other two did not even refer to these partnerships as “marriages”, but as “unions” or “relationships”.

It has always been known that Taiwan is the leader of LGBT awareness in Asia, as their annual gay pride parade in Taipei is the reason why people from all around the world are coming to show their support. So, it’s safe to assume that this is not just a victory for Taiwanese same-sex couples, but that it also sends a powerful message all across Asia. Most governments, such as the Singaporean one, are justifying the interdiction of these marriages by saying that this is a proper way to preserve the traditional Asian values.

Slowly but surely, legal changes are being made throughout the continent, but the general mentality in these countries varies widely. For instance, the bill that passed in Taiwan may not influence the situation in midland China at all, even though homosexuality was decriminalized in 1997 there, and it stopped being considered a mental illness 3 years later.

Brunei can also be presented in opposition to Taiwan, as they passed new Islamic laws which were initially supposed to make gay sex punishable by death. However, numerous boycotts and protests have been initiated ever since this became public, having celebrities like George Clooney speak against it. Now, it has been declared that the death penalty was no longer going to be implemented – after all, homosexuality is already punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Brunei, so the legal status of it is not exactly ideal (or human rights-friendly).

It seems like we can only rejoice the small victories such as the one in Taiwan and hope for the best, while speaking up about our rights whenever it is necessary.