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Thailand’s move to recognise same-sex unions leaves LGBTI activists unimpressed

Thailand’s move to recognise same-sex unions leaves LGBTI activists unimpressed

Bangkok

Thailand’s move to be the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex unions has come under fire from LGBTI rights groups.

Advocacy campaigners say that the move to recognize same-sex unions falls short of allowing same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.

The law that allows the civil unions is expected to be approved by the end of this year.

But activists have called for the bill to be dropped, and for the Civil Code amended to allow full marriage equality, the South China Morning Post reports.

‘How can we support this law if this is another law that discriminates against us?’ said Matcha Phorn-in, a Thai LGBTI rights activist.

‘We need LGBTIQ to be included and not [to have] a separate law that creates second-class citizens. If [the bill] is not approved, it will be easier to make [future] changes in the Civil Code.’

Lack of legal protections for the LGBTI community

The Thai government recently concluded a two-week public consultation on the bill.

Though Thailand is known for being LGBTI friendly, the country has very few legal statutes in place to offer protection or equal rights to LGBTI people.

Although the bill would allow the LGBTI people recognition in certain respects, it does not include provisions for LGBTI people with regards to adoption, taxation, joint welfare benefits or medical consent from a partner.

‘The constitution says that […] there shouldn’t be specific laws for specific groups. But this law is meant just for one group of people,’ says Nada Chaiyajit, a transgender activist and lawyer who has been involved in drafting the bill.

The bill also negates the inclusion of surrogacy rights – which has been a major demand by the activists – and introduces the legal concept of ‘life-partner’ instead of ‘spouse’.

Anjana Suvarnananda, the founder Thailand’s first LGBT rights group, the Anjaree Foundation,  believes this could cause further legal confusion between the various government offices and organizations.

‘Many areas will not be covered immediately and many rights will not be recognized [by all government officials], which will mean that LGBT people will have to take offices to court,’ Anjana said.

Preparing for the elections

Thailand has been ruled by a military junta since 2014, though has fresh elections due in early 2019.

‘I feel that the military want to pass this law quickly so they get the support from […] LGBT people during elections,’ said transgender rights activist, Kath Khangpiboon.

‘There has barely been any participation from civil society and I don’t think they will make substantial changes after the hearings.’

While the debate over the bill continues in Thailand, fellow LGBTI-friendly Asian country Taiwan is seeing through a referendum on the legalization of same-sex marriage on Saturday (24 November).

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