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Taiwan election blow for LGBT rights

The defeat of Tsai Ing-wen diminishes hope for more LGBT rights in Taiwan
Defeated Taiwan presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen

She could have been the first female president of Taiwan, and perhaps the first lesbian president, but in the end Tsai Ing-wen narrowly missed out in Friday’s general election in Taiwan.

The election was so neck-and-neck that commentators said it was too close to call when the Taiwanese began to cast their votes on Friday. But on Saturday the central election commission said that incumbent president Ma Ying-jeou of Kuomintang beat Tsai's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) by 51.5% of the vote to 45.7%.

The DPP announced pro-LGBT rights policy in September last year which stated they would 'promote respect for the rights of people with different gender orientations, enhance public awareness on gender diversity and enhance the understanding of government workers on gender diversity'. The Tawain Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership rights encouraged gay friendly voters to support the DPP.

During the leadership contest for the DPP in April last year, Tsai’s opponent publicly asked her about her own sexuality. She said: 'I don't want to answer his question and I most certainly won't do it. If I answer him I will become an accomplice of sexual suppression. There is nothing wrong with any sexual orientation or marital status and no one has the right to question others... We need to work harder to defend the human rights of all sexual minority groups.'

Tsai stood down as leader of the DPP when she conceded defeat. 'I am sorry that I have let our supporters down,' she said. 'I know everyone is sad about the result. It's OK to cry… but don’t be frustrated and don't give up. We still need to fight for Taiwan with optimism.'

Yesterday several chapters of the DPP launched a petition to ask her to say on. Spokesperson Chuang Jui-hsiung said 'we should not let Tsai take sole responsibility for losing'. And her Facebook page was inundated with 200,000 messages of support.

Compared to its neighbours, Taiwan has a relatively good record for LGBT rights. Taiwan LGBT Pride has been held since 2003, with 50,000 joining the parade last October.

Newly re-elected President Ma Ying-jeou was a guest at 2007's Taiwan LGBT Pride march, but since then activists have complained that he's failed to stand up for gay rights. 

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