Could Thailand Become The Second Country in South-East Asia to Legalise Same-Sex Unions?

Could Thailand Become The Second Country in South-East Asia to Legalise Same-Sex Unions?

Author: Jade MacEwan

On the 8th of July, the Thai Cabinet approved a bill which would allow same-sex couples in Thailand to enter into civil partnerships. While the word “marriage” is not explicitly used in the bill, the civil partnerships would include many of the same rights for same-sex couples as heterosexual marriages. Same-sex partners who enter into civil partnerships would be able to own joint property, claim inheritance rights and adopt children together. The civil partnerships could be entered into by same-sex partners who are aged seventeen or over, one of whom must be a Thai citizen (The New York Times, 2020).

Rachada Dhnadirek, spokesperson for the Thai government, said that the bill was “an important step for Thailand in creating equality for everyone and guaranteeing rights for same-sex couples to start a family” (Bloomberg, 2020), while the president of the Rainbow Sky Association of Thailand, Kittinan Daramadhaj, said that though the bill does not give the label of “marriage” to same-sex unions, it is the content of the bill that is important. He said that “’civil partnership shouldn’t distract from the fact that it’s about the legal registration of unions” (Reuters, 2020).

However, some activists do not believe that the bill goes far enough and are concerned that it does not represent true marriage equality for all Thai citizens. Some have been calling for a same-sex marriage law in place of the civil partnership bill, using the Twitter hashtag “No Same Sex Union Bill”, and two MPs from the party Move Forward advised citizens not to be misled by the new bill, as civil partnerships are not equal to marriage. While the bill grants many of the same rights as marriage to same-sex partners, some rights are in doubt, such as whether those in same-sex unions will be able to make medical decisions for their partner or whether they will be able to receive benefit payments from their partner’s social security funds (The Independent, 2020).

Pauline Ngarmpring, who identifies as trans and ran for prime minister in 2019, says that the bill is not based on equality, but is better than nothing, stating that “this is not a fight that can be finished in our generation”. Pauline notes that she herself faces inequality as a trans person, still being identified as male on her ID card and being forced to use male facilities in Thai hospitals. However, in comparison to other South Asian states, such as Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, where gay sex is illegal, Thailand is progressive when it comes to LGBT+ rights. The country has a reputation of being LGBT+ friendly in some respects, such as having anti-discrimination laws, and Thailand has been a pioneer in gender reassignment surgery. The Thai Cabinet itself is rather socially conservative, “a stronghold of retired military generals and tradition-bound political elders”, therefore the fact that the bill has already been passed by the Cabinet is a positive sign (The New York Times, 2020).

The bill still has to go through a public hearing, before being voted on by the House of Representatives, the lower house in the Thai Parliament. If passed, it will also need to be voted on by the Senate, therefore it still has a long way to go before becoming law in Thailand. If the Thai Parliament approves the bill, this would make Thailand only the second country in Asia to allow legalised same-sex partnerships, after Taiwan legalised same-sex marriage in 2019. (CNN, 2020).


Links to Resources

Beech, H. (2020-07-09). Thailand Moves to Legalize Same-Sex Unions, a Rare Step in Asia. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/09/world/asia/thailand-same-sex-unions.html

Ng, K. (2020-07-10). Thailand Cabinet approves same-sex partnerships but activists warn of ‘fake equality’. The Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/thailand-cabinet-same-sex-partnership-lgbtq-inequality-a9611856.html

Regan, H. and Olarn, K. (2020-07-09). Thailand could become the first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex civil partnerships. CNN. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/09/asia/thailand-same-sex-union-bill-intl-hnk/index.html

Tanakasempipat, P. (2020-07-08). Thai cabinet backs bill allowing same-sex unions. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-thailand-lgbt/thai-cabinet-backs-bill-allowing-same-sex-unions-idUSKBN2491W4

Thanthong-Knight, R. (2020-07-08). Thailand Leads Way in Southeast Asia With Same-Sex Union Bill. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-08/thailand-leads-way-in-southeast-asia-with-same-sex-union-bill?sref=1iv33ir2