Taiwan first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage

Sunday May 19 2019

Taiwan same-sex marriage

Supporters of same-sex marriage celebrate outside the parliament in Taipei on May 17, 2019 when Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage in a landmark first for Asia as the government survived a last-minute attempt by conservatives to pass a watered-down legislation. PHOTO | SAM YEH | AFP 

SELEON KOIN
By SELEON KOIN
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A parliamentary vote on Friday bore a lot of significance to the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community in Taiwan after it legalised same-sex marriages.

With the vote, Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage.

Thousands gathered outside Taiwan’s parliament awaiting the landmark vote and not even the pounding rain could discourage them.

In 2017, Taiwan’s constitutional court ruled that the law defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman was unconstitutional.

After two years of lobbying by gay rights activists and making amendments, lawmakers decided to recognise same-sex unions.

INCLUSION

While making her address, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was quick to note that the ruling was of much significance to the people of Taiwan and that it was important for her country to show the world the value of kindness and inclusion.

Even with the excitement in the air, LGBTQ+ rights activists noted that the law was not clear on cross-national marriages and co-adoption rights for same-sex couples.

They promised to see to it that such unions are guaranteed the same privilege given to heterosexual couples.

UNIQUE IN ASIA

Taiwan's case is unique as no other Asian country has formally recognised same-sex marriages.

In China, homosexuality is illegal and many have been charged including a woman who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for writing an erotic novel about a gay couple.

Last year, a gay couple was arrested in Indonesia for operating an LGBTQ+ Facebook page.

KENYAN SITUATION

Taiwan's new law will go into effect on May 24, the same day that the Kenyan LGBTQ+ community will be expecting the long awaited ruling on the decriminalisation of gay sex in the country.

In Kenya, a section of the penal code states that any person who has "carnal knowledge... against the order of nature" can face up to 14 years in jail.

Another section provides for five years of imprisonment for those caught doing “indecent practises between males”.

Gay rights organisations in the country have been pressing for the scrapping of these two sections which they term as discriminative.