2013 was a year in which LGBTI rights reforms were more warmly welcomed by many governments across the Asian region, but the Indian Supreme Court’s recriminalization of homosexuality cast a heavy shadow over the year.
2013 was also a year where new frontrunners emerged in the race to become the first Asian nation legalize same-sex marriage, with Vietnam and Taiwan emerging as strong contenders to become the first to allow same-sex couples to wed.
Hundreds of people rallied in Hanoi in support of same-sex couples being able to marry in October and two of the Vietnamese Government’s ministries have announced their support for the reform.
The Vietnamese Government ended its policy of fining people who hold same-sex weddings that same month and it has indicated that it will take a gradual path towards reform to warm the Vietnamese people to the idea.
Same-sex marriage also caused waves in Taiwan this year, with thousands marching for and against the reform, and Taiwanese pop star A-mei held a free concert in support of allowing gays to marry which 20,000 people attended just this month.
While stopping short of full marriage equality, Thai lawmakers have proposed civil unions for gay couples with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage but politicians in both the government and opposition are divided on the merits of the reform.
China’s LGBTI community became more outgoing in 2013 with Chinese language gay dating app Blued announcing it had passed 2 million users.
LGBTI inclusivity in the workplace in China also got a big boost with the launch of a ‘Creating Inclusive Workplaces for LGBT Employees in China’ resource by Asian workplace diversity non-profit group Community Business.
Then in August GSN reported on a 90-year-od Chinese grandmother becoming an internet hit after she filmed a video saying she wanted her gay grandson to be able to marry.
‘I am 90 years old,’ the grandmum says in the video, ‘My grandson is gay.
‘He treats me very well and he is sensible. I love him [and] I hope he can find a boyfriend and have a happy life. I hope the government can support him.’
During the video she holds up a sign which says in Chinese, ‘we urge the legalization of same-sex marriages.’
In May there was an important victory for transgender rights in Asia when a Hong Kong court allowed a transgender woman to marry her boyfriend for the first time, setting a precedent for other transsexual women who have undergone surgery.
In July Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang raised eyebrows when he said that the US and China were married – but not gay married. He declined to say which country was the husband and which was the wife.
However what will overshadow 2013 for LGBTI rights in Asia was the unexpected recriminalization of homosexuality in India by the country’s Supreme Court in December.
The decision shocked progressive Indians, and reverberated on social media, with thousands of heterosexual allies posting pictures to social media with friends pretending to be gay couples and thousands taking to the streets.
The court’s decision, which reversed the Delhi High Court’s decriminalization of gay sex, was called ‘a black day for the world’ and the worst set back for LGBTI rights the world had seen in a decade by activists GSN spoke to.
The Indian Government and the Naz Foundation that brought the original case against the law have both said they will file for a judicial review of the decision but it seems unlikely that that will take place before Indians go to the polls next year where it seems likely that the Congress Party will lose power to the Hindu Nationalist BJP who support the ban on gay sex.