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A draft law is being prepared for parliament that seeks to offer lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning couples (LGBTIQ)the same rights as heterosexual couples.
Section 1448 of Thailand’s Civil and Commercial Code deems same-sex marriage unlawful, something Nathee Theeraronjanapong, 55, and Atthapon Janthawee, 38, discovered last year in Chiang Mai when they decided to make their twenty year relationship legal and were handed a letter of denial by the head of registrations. The couple then filed a complaint with the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, the Administrative Court and the National Human Rights Commission insisting that Thailand’s constitution guarantees them equal protection under the law.
Presenting the draft law on same-sex unions to Thailand’s parliament is Wiratana Kalayasiri, Democrat parliamentarian from the southern Thai city of Songkhla, who is also the chairman of the Legal Justice Human Rights committee.
He explained that the opposition to the law in its early stages has been strongly opposed because most legislators in Thailand are aged over forty seven. He went on to say that people wondered why he was presenting the draft law and he got a very negative response, but as time as gone on, people have started to understand the human rights of Thai people.
There will be five hearings on the bill at several universities in the country as well as in parliament. It was discovered in a survey of 300 people only 10.3% were against gay marriage and 78% were in favor. What Kalayasin found particularly surprising that in Songkhla, a city of 75,000 people, 87% of Muslims attending a public meeting were in favor of gay marriage, however nearly 60% o respondents to a government survey last year were not in favor of gay marriage.
Still, leading activists in Thailand’s LGBTIQ movement such as Anjana Suvarnananda, who co-founded Anjaree Group in 1987, the first organization to raise the issue of LGBTIQ rights here, believes that the bill could facilitate the process of moving public attitudes from opposition to acceptance.
Anjana believes that the LGBTIQ struggle with acceptance from parents who often put a great deal of pressure on them to conform to a more traditional idea of family life rather than opening their minds to the more modern idea that a family structure is based on the union of two loving and consenting adults.
Under the existing Civil and Commercial Code, same-sex families are not afforded the same legal protections as heterosexual couples such as medical coverage or recognition as being the sole caretaker of their spouse. This means that in the case of an accident or a severe trauma partners are considered nothing more than just a friend, which for the LGBTIQ offers little in the way of security.
In 1956, provisions making sodomy a punishable offense were repealed and consensual sex between same-sex couples became lawful, making Thailand one of Asia’s most progressive countries regarding gay rights. Sodomy is criminalized in six member countries of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, namely, Brunei, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore as well as Marawi City in the Philippines and the South Sumatra province of Indonesia.
Although Thailand’s gender non-conformity receives a high level of social acceptance there has been very little progress in terms of recognizing the rights of transgender people, of which there are currently approximately 180,000 across the country, including pop singers, movie stars and celebrities. Thai law does not allow transgender people to change their gender or their names on their ID cards or passports and this often causes confusion at border crossings and immigration checkpoints.