Thailand is one step closer to becoming the first country in Asia to recognize same-sex civil partnerships.
The Guardian reports that the military government has backed a same-sex civil partnership bill that offers essential human rights to same-sex couples:
If the bill is passed, members of same-sex civil partnerships in Thailand will gain greater property, inheritance and succession rights. They will also gain the right to give consent regarding medical decisions if their partner gets seriously ill.
Nathporn Chatusripitak, adviser to Thailand’s prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, said the bill would allow same-sex couples to adopt children. There is debate over this, as the draft does not mention adoption explicitly. Currently in Thailand, individuals in same-sex relationships can legally adopt children, but same-sex couples cannot jointly adopt.
Activists say that while the legislation is a step towards achieving marriage equality, the bill doesn’t go far enough. Nada Chaiyajit, a 39-year-old trans activist who the government consulted for the draft, was critical but optimistic. “People expected the draft to [explicitly] include the right to adopt and the right to social welfare, and the government cut these off,” she said.
She described the draft as a good “first step” towards equal rights. “I’m confident that within five years they’ll put [full] marriage equality on the agenda,” she said.
Though Thailand legalized gay marriage in 2015, the LGBT community continues to fight for equal rights and equal protection of those rights. Thailand has become an international destination for gender-affirming surgery, but transgender people in Thailand have no ability to change their gender on official documentation. “This is the root cause of a lot of problems for us because it leads to a lot of discrimination,” transgender activist Wannapong Yodmuang, a human rights researcher at the Manushya Foundation, told Asia Times. “For example, when you go to a job interview and people look at your documents and it doesn’t’ fit with your identity. Then people question, and this leads to stigmatization and then they might rethink our application.”
“It’s weird for me to be in a country that seems to accept transgender people, but the fact is that we are [still] not recognized in the law,” she said, adding, that “the country simply tolerates us, but doesn’t actually accept us.”
The bill now goes to the parliament floor for a vote, but according to Asia Times, a legislative backlog may hold the vote until after the country’s general election in February. This means that the new parliament would have to vote in favor of the legislation in order to turn the bill into law.