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Taiwan’s judiciary make it undeserving of reputation as Asia’s most gay-friendly country

Taiwan’s judiciary make it undeserving of reputation as Asia’s most gay-friendly country

On Friday (12 June), the Taiwanese legislature confirmed President Ma Ying-jeou’s four nominees to the country’s Constitutional Court.

Unlike the drawn out vetting and confirmation process Americans are accustomed to for its Supreme Court, the questioning took only two days for all four nominees.

In addition to the truncated process, the Office of the President also denied legislators much vital information on the nominees by citing the Personal Information Protection Act. This is akin to job applicants refusing to supply their own résumé by citing privacy laws!

With these confirmations, all 15 justices on the Constitutional Court will have been appointed by President Ma, whose administration has been adamantly against rights of sexual minorities. It opposes same-sex marriage and has placed onerous requirements on the legal gender change process.

Despite finally agreeing to remove the surgery requirement, it has proposed a new procedure that will force people who wish to change their legal genders to undergo approval by a committee, which will only be granted if one is not in a marital relationship, has no children, passes two psychiatric evaluations, and promises to not change genders again.

These burdensome requirements are unduly restrictive and serve no compelling governmental purpose other than to police transgender people in Taiwan.

In line with the ruling party and the administration’s general anti-LGBTI stance, the four newly-minted justices also indicated their opposition to same-sex marriage during the confirmation process. Significantly, they cited tradition, culture, and the lack of social consensus on same-sex marriage to support their position, showing their fundamental ignorance of the concept of human rights and the state’s role as its protector.

Taiwan is often touted as the most progressive country in Asia for the LGBTI community, but its draconian laws and questionable jurists make it undeserving of this reputation.

It is time for the international community, especially those who care about sexual minorities, to be more critical of the country’s human rights violations and stop giving it a pass just because its neighbors have even worse records.

M Bob Kao is a PhD candidate in law at Queen Mary University of London and blogs at Taiwan Law Blog.