Students in South Korea on Thursday (18 July) won a court case against their university after it punished them for wearing rainbow clothing
The Seoul Eastern District Court ruled the Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary (PUTS) must nullify punishments and pay the students’ legal fees, according to local media.
In July last year, PUTS handed four students punishments including suspension from classes for a ‘rainbow stunt’.
To mark International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia (IDAHOT) 2018, eight students wore rainbow clothing to chapel.
They wanted to show support for LGBTI people. They also shared photos on social media.
The event caused a massive backlash in conservative, majority-Christian South Korea.
The Presbyterian church was worried it could be seen as endorsing homosexuality.
On Thursday, the court ruled there was ‘procedural defect’ in the university’s reason for punishing the students.
In an earlier hearing, judges pressed the university on arguing that they were both against homosexuality and homophobia.
‘I hope this sentence will be a comfort to those who have been hurt and excommunicated by the Korean church producing hatred’ one of the students said at the court hearing, according to local media.
LGBTI rights in South Korea
Homosexuality is legal in South Korea. But conservative attitudes, especially among Christians, force many LGBTI Koreans to live in the closet.
There is also currently no discrimination legislation to protect LGBTI Koreans. Same-sex marriage is not legal.
In its 2019 world report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said leaders had done little to protect the rights of LGBTI people in South Korea.
The country’s LGBTI movement has triggered a conservative backlash, HRW warned.
Christian and anti-LGBTI protesters have disrupted pride events across the country in the last year.
The groups pressure authorities to deny permission and violently disrupt activities.
Organizers and witnesses of the Incheon Queer Culture Festival (IQCF) say about 1,000 anti-LGBTI and Christian demonstrators verbally and physically abused attendees of a march in September last year.
Incheon city officials had denied the queer festival’s request to host the event, citing a lack of parking. Organizers, therefore, lodged an appeal and vowed to march anyway.
In Busan, it took thousands of police to keep a pride event violence-free.
In Jeju, about 50 demonstrators held placards, grabbed LGBTI attendees, and lay down on the street to prevent the pride march, according to attendees.