LGBT-friendly Asia still a distant dream
The idea of an LGBT-friendly Asia still seems a distant dream after Taiwan recently rejected marriage equality.
Last November 24, Taiwanese voted in a referendum against initiatives to add same-sex marriage in a Civil Code and gender equality education in schools.
The sad thing here is that Taiwan is already considered the most progressive country in Asia and is at the forefront of LGBT activism.
LGBT-friendly Asia: Driven by media distortion
Victor Maung, a journalist and LGBT rights activist who was born in Myanmar, isn’t surprised.
Writing for the Washington Blade, Maung said: “As I grew up in one of the most conservative countries in Asia, I am not surprised to see these results because I know acceptance on LGBT rights in Asian countries is always limited to certain niches.”
“Often, media-distorted views of seemingly widespread acceptance are giving false hopes,” Maung added.
Presently, most Asian countries have a broad spectrum of LGBT rights conditions, from harsh punishments and discrimination to some growing acceptance.
However, at least 20 Asian countries still consider same-sex relationships illegal. In seven of them, this is punishable with the death penalty.
At its mildest, members of the LGBT community in Asia face problems like refusal by their family to accept them or discrimination at the workplace.
“From the late-Cambodian King Sihanouk to the Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte, it’s not hard to see why these Asian leaders showed support for LGBT rights but never actually acted to risk public support,” Maung said.
However, he said that: “This kind of ‘acceptance with an agenda’ might fool the international media, but the message of acceptance is never passed down to the grassroots level.”
LGBT-friendly Asia: Status by country
Here is the state of LGBT rights in a number of countries in Asia:
1. South Korea’s constitution prohibits discrimination based on sex, religion, or social status. But while the Korean Ministry of Justice has said this also applies to LGBT people, these protections don’t have enforcement powers.
2. The laws of North Korea don’t have much to say on the right of same-sex activities, but since these go against the social agenda, they’re considered “de facto” prohibited.
3. China has no laws protecting the LGBT from discrimination, and considers same-sex marriage and partnership as illegal.
4. Japan doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, but some local municipalities recognize the rights of same-sex couples as “equivalent to marriage.”
5. India has colonial-era law criminalizing sexual activity “against the order of nature.” However, the Supreme Court recently ordered a review of the gay sex ban this year.
6. Indonesia doesn’t criminalize same-sex sexual activity at the national level, but some laws stigmatize LGBT people.
7. Malaysia criminalizes anal and oral sex, with a punishment of up to 20 years. Some states have also Islamic Sharia law and punish same-sex intercourse with lashings.
8. Myanmar criminalizes same-sex intercourse with a prison term of up to 10 years. They also don’t have on the right to marry or the right to not be discriminated against.
9. The Philippines has a strong Catholic population that leads lawmakers to block legislation that would protect LGBT people. However, the US-based Pew Research Center said they rank as the most friendly to the gay community.
10. Singapore penalizes same-sex sexual activity with a punishment of imprisonment of up to 2 years.