Lawmakers in the Buddhist-majority country of Thailand gave their initial approval on two bills that would allow same-sex marriage on Wednesday. Two further bills would permit civil partnerships. The bills are the latest in a series of steps by the government as public support for LGBTQ rights grows in Thailand. They come just days after Bangkok celebrated its first Pride parade in 16 years earlier this month.
The bills have been heralded as a significant landmark in the legally conservative country. The civil partnership bill was approved by the cabinet in 2020 and will recognize same-sex unions, offering similar rights currently afforded to married couples. If it becomes law, Thailand will be the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize same-sex unions.
The legislation has further hurdles to clear, but the progress this week was appreciated by many in Thailand.
“I am very happy and glad, it is a good sign in Pride month that there are MPs who want equality and vote for the bills,” said Nada Chaiyajit, an LGBTQ activist, “But there is a long way to go.” (France 24)
Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, which proposed one of the same-sex marriage bills, spoke to celebrating activists outside of parliament. He said, “Today is an answer that politics is possible here in Thailand. No matter who you are, there is a place for you in this country.” (The Manila Times)
Ahead of the Pride parade, Kath Khangbiboon, a trans activist and lecturer at Thammasat University, said, “I feel so much pride that an activity like this is happening.” (The Guardian)
“I don’t want people to think we are different,” said Maysa Petkam, a competitor in transgender beauty pageant Miss Tiffany Universe. She added that, “We don’t want more rights than other genders, we only want basic rights,” noting that the community still faces discrimination. I wish same-sex marriage law passes so that there will be laws that protect and decrease gender inequality.” (France 24)
Thailand has long been socially welcoming in some ways to people across the gender spectrum. World Nomads, a site dedicated to travel, says that, “Thailand is one of the most tolerant countries in Southeast Asia, and has a thriving LGBTQ+ scene.” (World Nomads)
Nonetheless, the lack of official recognition makes the situation for LGBTQ people in the country more complicated. The legal framework of the country, which is in part driven by ancient Buddhist moral values, has yet to embrace non-heteronormative gender and sexual expression.
The move would make Thailand the second country in the region to legalize same-sex marriage after Taiwan did so in 2019. While formally allowing legal same-sex marriage, same-sex couples in Taiwan still see restrictions that others do not face. Bhutan officially decriminalized same-sex relationships in 2020 but has yet to move further toward marriage equality. Japan has passed legislation to begin recognizing same-sex partnerships for purposes of government benefits beginning this November.
According to a 2015 census, 94.5 per cent of the people in Thailand practice Buddhism. The country’s second-largest religion, Islam, is practiced by 4.29 per cent of Thais, predominantly in the south. Christians account for just over 1 per cent of the populous. The kingdom has some 40,000 Buddhist temples with almost 300,000 Buddhist monks.
Thailand sending two bills on LGBTQ+ couples to parliament (Pattaya Mail)
Thailand takes step towards same-sex marriage with parliament vote (France 24)
Thai legislators grant initial OK to same-sex unions (The Manila Times)
‘Like a bridge that connects us’: Pride parade comes to Bangkok amid new hope for LGBT rights (The Guardian)
How Friendly is Thailand for LGBTQ+ Travelers? (World Nomads)
Bangkok celebrates first Pride parade in 16 years (France 24)
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