After a historic vote on Friday 17th May, the self-governing island of Taiwan passed legislation allowing same-sex couples to get married. Taiwan’s parliament becomes the first in the continent to legalise same-sex marriages with President Tsai Ing-wen openly emphasising on her official Twitter account how this progressive step ‘made Taiwan a better country.’
A Long Fight
Almost two years ago, the Constitution Court ruled that the current legislation on same-sex marriages was not only unconstitutional but had to either be amended or switched out for new laws. The Court gave a deadline of two years and just as the cut-off date was nearing, Taiwan passed the landmark legislation changing the lives of the LGBT community forever.
Thousands of supporters gathered outside parliament to celebrate the news, despite the heavily pouring rain. Eventually, the rain symbolically subsided for a rainbow over the President’s Office building almost welcoming a new era in Taiwan.
The Struggle for LGBT Rights
The news comes on the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, as recognised by the United Nations. The day aims to raise awareness of LGBT rights and the discriminatory violence the community faces. In Taiwan, LGBT campaigners and activists have been actively fighting for equal rights since as early as the 1990s, their continuous work can be attributed to the recent legislation, but many activists recognise the long journey still ahead of them. The law is not complete and does not include co-adoption rights but for once it provides legal definition.
Truly Belong spoke to native Taiwanese Yichia Tang, a young marketing professional in London, on her thoughts: “A lot of Christian campaigners don’t support the legislation and continue to spread their agenda on social media and on political television.” Currently, the ruling party are the centre-left Democratic Progressive Party, led by the current president. However, with elections looming, many are worried about the opposing party, the Kuomintang, winning control. Ms Tang added: “There are elections coming up next year, and no one knows what will happen, but this is a victory and something we’ve been waiting for for a long time.”
Once the law comes into effect on May 24th, Taiwan will join the list of over twenty nations that permit same-sex marriages. Despite global progress, many more countries still fall behind when recognising LGBT rights, particularly in Asia. Brunei, only after receiving widespread international outrage and having high profile celebrities like George Clooney involved, decided to back down on its death penalty laws for those convicted of having gay relations. While the road towards complete LGBT equality is steep, Taiwan is a shining beacon of what evolution looks like.
Author: Aisha Mohamed