New bill for same-sex unions . . .
Thailand’s Cabinet approved the Civil Partnership Bill permitting same-sex civil unions on Wednesday, a bill that now moves to the House for a vote. The bill also includes legal amendments to the country’s civil and commercial codes, extending some of the rights enjoyed by traditional marriages to same-sex couples. Adults 17 and older would be able to register their union as long as one of them is a Thai national. These couples would have rights over property management, adoptions, and inheritance. The bill does not characterize same-sex unions as equal to marriage, however, nor does it bestow certain rights and benefits which female-male couples possess, like tax exemptions, access to a partner’s government pension, and other welfare benefits.
Catching up to a reputation for tolerance . . .
The bill is a major milestone for LGBTQ+ rights in Thailand. The Buddhist-majority country has long fostered a progressive reputation towards these communities, particularly for tourism, actively marketing a ‘gay paradise’ a part of its international image. The Thai LGBTQ+ community, however, still faces stigmatization ranging from family rejection to workplace discrimination, with community members facing difficulties finding jobs outside the tourism, media, or entertainment industries. While the LGBTQ+ community is thriving in urban centres compared to more conservative rural settings, relevant education and discussions on sexuality and gender remain taboo. Although Thailand also has a visible transgender community and sex reassignment surgery is readily available, the new bill does not cover rights for trans people, including pathways for legal sex change on identity documents.
A strong step in the right direction . . .
If the Civil Partnerships Bill passes, a process that could take years before a final vote, Thailand would become the second jurisdiction in Asia to legalize same-sex unions, after Taiwan. While the cabinet-endorsed bill still faces some public opposition and critics question the ‘equality’ of its outlined partnerships compared to marriage, advocates still consider the bill a definite step in the right direction. Given the growing acceptance toward LGBTQ+ people in the region, as shown in a recent Pew Research poll, it is likely that Southeast Asia will continue to see similar and accelerated progress on LGBTQ+ rights.