Thailand may become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise same-sex unions as the country’s parliament inches towards passing a draft Bill that will enable same-sex couples to enter civil partnerships, on the heels of Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriages in May.
Bloomberg reported today (28 Aug) that should the Bill be passed, same-sex couples in Thailand will obtain the rights to share and manage their assets and liabilities as a unit, in addition to having the right to inheritance.
Thailand’s lawmakers – both the ones from the ruling coalition and opposition parties – have spent seven years working on the Bill, which was approved by the Cabinet last year prior to the general election in Mar. The drafting process of the Bill even had the support of the Justice Ministry.
Deputy director general of the Justice Ministry’s Rights and Liberties Protection Department Kerdchoke Kasamwongjit told Bloomberg that while the Bill “can’t satisfy everyone”, the legislation may serve as a solid foundation upon which “future laws that could be added to expand the rights”.
While both the ruling and opposition party representatives in Parliament concur that the Bill is a positive move towards securing the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Thailand, opposition members have also pointed out that civil partnerships still do not have the same status as marriages, and may even afford fewer rights than marriages, Bloomberg observed.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a transgender Member of Parliament from the opposition Future Forward party, told Bloomberg that Thailand’s law should be “genderless”, proposing instead for an amendment to the definition of marriage in the Civil and Commercial Code, which currently states that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, instead of a union between two persons.
However, Tanwarin remains optimistic about the future of LGBT rights in Thailand, saying that such rights “isn’t too far from reality”, particularly with the drafting of the same-sex civil union Bill.
While Thailand appears to be an LGBT-friendly country in contrast with its neighbours in Southeast Asia, subtle discrimination against LGBT persons remains rampant in industries outside tourism, media and entertainment despite laws prohibiting such discrimination, and as of now until the Bill is passed, same-sex couples do not have legal recognition.