Taiwan made history on the May 17, 2019 by becoming the first Asian state to legalize same-sex marriage. Thousands of people in Taiwan came out in the pouring rain, to show their support of same-sex marriages outside the Parliament. While there was a two-year long wait before the bill was finally passed, the lawmakers of the self-governed island finally passed the bill make same-sex marriage legal. The law is due to go into effect from May 24.
Despite its large LGBTQ community, Taiwan had been divided over this issue. Conservative groups have been trying their best to campaign against this bill, even leading to a referendum in November 2018 rejecting same-sex marriage by 67% votes. It has been quite a struggle for the community, but they finally managed to breathe a sigh of relief this Friday with the High Court stating the ban on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional. While this may be a massive win for the LGBTQ community, this is a first step to a longer battle for their rights ahead. The bill only addresses “marriage”, but there is no mention of other rights of heterosexual couples like child adoption and marriage with another national.
While Taiwan and the rest of the world are rejoicing this historic decision, it is yet to be seen how the rest of the continent will follow. There still are countries in Asia where gay sex is not only illegal, but is punishable by death. But it is also helpful to see that there are countries where there has been a progress in outlook with respect to homosexuality. In September last year, India became one of the latest additions to the countries to do so. Overturning a law made during the colonial times, the Supreme Court of India banned the Section 377 that criminalized gay sex under the category of “unnatural offence”. Reaching to this landmark wasn’t easy for the LGBTQ community of India, as the struggle against homophobia has been very real over the years.
The marriage laws on India do not explicitly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, but that does not necessarily mean that they legalize same-sex marriages. The question that arises now in India, post Taiwan’s legalization is whether the same will soon be applied here too or not. Decades of taboo around homosexuality has already been very much prevalent in India, and despite the decriminalization of Section 377, homophobia still exists in parts of the society. Nevertheless in two decades’ time, this faction has largely reduced from 89% to 24%, according to a research conducted World Values Survey in 2014. The LGBTQ community has been legally accepted by society, whether willingly or unwillingly, but we are yet to see if the same will be for same-sex civil unions and marriages.
There have also been instances that same-sex marriages of Indians have taken place in the recent past, showing that maybe India is ready to take steps towards this progress. In January last month, 43-year old IIT graduate, Hrishi Sathawane married his Vietnamese partner Vinh in Yavatmal, Maharashtra, making it the first same-sex marriage in the country. While societal pressure had been on his parents’ minds when he first came out to them in 1997, they whole-heartedly accepted their son’s sexual orientation eventually and later celebrated his decision to marry in their hometown. While the union may not yet be legal in India, taking into consideration that at the time of its occurrence Section 377 was still under discussion, it was definitely a small victory for those advocating for legalization of same-sex marriages. The establishment of Arranged Gay Marriage Bureau is another example of how the newer generation of the country is moving in the right direction of same-sex. While the law may not recognize them yet, the bureau has successfully organized 42 weddings all across the country. These small steps are exactly what the country needs in order to progress in the right direction.
Taiwan may have successfully started the wheel to roll, but it is now a matter of time for the LGBTQ communities all over Asia to wait and see if their efforts to get the courts to legalize same-sex marriages reach fruition soon or not.