Special Report: Thailand to become first Southeast Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage

- through Henry Oudin

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The Pride Caravan celebrates the passage of the marriage equality bill in Bangkok on Tuesday. Photo by Nutthawat Wichieanbut. At bangkokpost.com

Thailand's Senate on Tuesday passed a landmark bill that will see the kingdom become the first nation in Southeast Asia to legalize marriage for LGBTIQA+ couples, and the third in Asia. Thailand's Senate passed the final reading of a marriage equality law with a vote of 130 senators in favor, four against and with 18 abstentions. The bill will be forwarded to the royal palace for approval by King Maha Vajiralongkorn and will officially come into force 120 days after its publication in the newspaper. Royal Gazette.

The new marriage equality law, passed on June 18, follows a historic lower house vote in March this year. The bill revises the language used in the Thai Civil and Commercial Code regarding married couples, replacing "men and women" and "husband and wife" with "individuals" and "married partners".

Taiwan became the first Asian government to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019, while Nepal has taken gradual steps toward equality, most recently in November 2023, when the Nepalese government, under an interim order of the Supreme Court, recognized a marriage between two Nepalis of the same sex legal for the first time.

From hrw.org

LGBTIQA+ community advocates, activists and allies in Thailand have said they are delighted that the government has managed to take an important step towards a more tolerant and equitable society.

“Thailand has reached a historic milestone by becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize marriage for LGBTI couples. This historic moment is a reward for the tireless work of activists, civil society organizations and legislators who fought for this victory,” Chanatip Tatiyakaroonwong, Thailand researcher at Amnesty International, said in a recent statement. “While there is no doubt that the legalization of marriage for LGBTI couples is a key milestone for Thailand, much more needs to be done to ensure the full protection of LGBTI people in the country. LGBTI people in Thailand continue to face many forms of violence and discrimination, including but not limited to technology-facilitated gender-based violence that often targets human rights defenders. (Amnesty International)

Although Buddhist-majority Thailand, which decriminalized homosexuality in 1956, is largely open and accepting of non-traditional sexual and gender identities, LGBTIQA+ people still face discrimination and prejudice from many aspects of society. society in daily life, where traditional mores continue to dominate. Activists say LGBTIQA+ people continue to face social barriers in education, the workplace, the healthcare system, the military and the monastic community, and are often rejected by their own families due to expectations traditional patriarchal.

Members of the LGBTIQA+ community arrive ahead of the passage of the Marriage Equality Bill on Tuesday. At bangkokpost.com

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), headquartered in Bangkok, a global network of individuals and organizations committed to promoting and working toward social justice, environmental sustainability and world peace, has been a key agent of change for social inclusion in Thailand and South East Asia. INEB is particularly active in efforts aimed at the social empowerment of marginalized groups, which includes building a sustainable foundation of support for gender equality and inclusion of the LGBTIQA+ community.

“Over the past two years, since the implementation of our Sangha for Peace program, which works with intra- and interfaith social engagement stakeholders in the region, INEB has established a much closer relationship with the community LGBTIQA+,” Anchalee Kurutach, member of the INEB Executive Committee and coordinator of the INEB Regional Peacebuilders Network Project, told BDG.

“In particular, we have two key members of the Sangha for Peace who are leaders and activists in the LGBTIQA+ community. They played an important role in the Sangha’s peace work and helped raise awareness among us all of the struggles, suffering – and resilience – of the community. As a result, we became their friends and allies, and they helped us transform much of our own ignorance, prejudices, and preconceptions through our kalyana-mitratra with them.

“I really admire Sangha for Peace member Hua Boonyapisoparn and how her spiritual practice is grounded and expressed through her work as a social activist. Even when Hua was advocating for LGBTIQA+ rights in the Thai parliament – ​​when people were saying some pretty condescending, disrespectful, even hateful things – she was able to remain calm and collected in her interactions and responses. And Hua attributes his remarkable serenity to his Buddhist practice.

“Similarly, INEB works by combining spiritual practice and social activism. In this sense, Hua is therefore a model that we cherish and appreciate so much! We bow to our LGBTIQA+ activists for leading the way, and we pray that Thailand becomes increasingly open and equitable for all segments of society!

Religious leaders and activists attend an INEB rally, Interfaith Pride: Gender Equality and Social Justice, in 2023, with Hua Boonyapisoparn third from left. Image courtesy of INEB

Established in 1989 by renowned Buddhist scholar and activist Professor Sulak Sivaraksa, INEB strives to promote understanding, cooperation and connections between inter-Buddhist and inter-religious groups, and to actively address global issues pressing issues such as human rights, conflict resolution, and environmental crises. INEB founded and runs social projects and awareness programs across the region aimed at overcoming suffering and empowering vulnerable communities through Dharma practice and social engagement. INEB's initiatives include education and training programs, community development projects, advocacy and lobbying efforts, and interfaith dialogue.

Anchalee noted that while INEB members were excited that the Marriage Equality Bill would come into force in 120 days, the victory marked a beginning rather than a conclusion.

“We must also recognize that this work did not start last year or the year before; this is the result of the Thai community’s struggle for equality for over 20 years,” she explained. “I am personally delighted to see this marriage equality bill passed with a majority, but there are still many other obstacles within Thai politics and Thai society that need the same type of support. We fervently hope that this can be a watershed moment for society leading to equal rights on other fronts.

“While the passage of this Bill is extremely commendable and we at INEB are delighted that the long struggle of the LGBTIQA+ community has finally reached this historic milestone, this is not the end of the road; rather, it is the end of the first major chapter in creating a more equitable society for all marginalized people.

Thailand is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country, with 93,5% of the country's 69 million people identifying as Buddhist, according to 2018 government census data. The Southeast Asian kingdom has some 40 000 temples and around 300 Buddhist monks. Although there are also communities of renunciates, including fully ordained female monks, monastic authorities in Thailand have never officially recognized the ordination of women and bhikkhunis do not yet enjoy the same level of societal acceptance as their male counterparts.

Thailand takes historic step towards legalizing same-sex marriage (BDG)

Engaged Buddhism: INEB Holds Historic Interfaith Gathering in Bangkok for Gender Equality and Social Justice (BDG)

Engaged Buddhism: INEB launches the Sangha for Peace to combat regional religious and ethno-nationalist tensions (BDG)

Kalyana mitrata (without.), Kalyaune-mittata (Pali); the Buddhist concept of virtuous spiritual friendship.

See more

International network of committed Buddhists
INEB – International Network of Engaged Buddhists (Facebook)
Project summary: The Sangha for Peace (INEB)

Thailand. Passage of Marriage Equality Bill a triumphant moment for LGBTI rights (Amnesty International)
Senate Passes Landmark Bill Recognizing Marriage Equality (Bangkok Post)
House passes same-sex marriage bill (Bangkok Post)

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The article Special Report: Thailand to become first Southeast Asian nation to legalize same-sex marriage appeared first on Buddhadoor Global.

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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