Sun, May 05, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Military's ban on gays does not make sense

By Chang Sheng-en 張聖恩

On May 1, local media uncovered the Armed Forces Police Command's (AFPC, 憲兵司令部) ban on homosexuals serving as military police. Such discrimination immediately drew criticism from the gay and lesbian community, as well as human-rights organizations across the nation. The next day, facing strong protests from all sides, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) said he would make sure the ban was lifted promptly. Tang's quick response to the matter deserves our praise. Still, it is necessary for the armed forces to revise its attitude toward gay men and women serving in the military so that they can be treated equally and justly.

According to Article 20 of the ROC Constitution, "The people shall have the duty of performing military service in accordance with the law." In Taiwan -- which has a conscription system -- all male citizens are liable for military service once they reach the age of 18, according to the Military Service Law (兵役法). In 1994, the defense ministry officially stopped treating homosexuality as an illness. That being so, gay men, just like any other men on the island, have the obligation to perform military service in accordance with the law. Also, they should have the chance of being selected for the military police, who are considered the elite in the armed forces.

Unfortunately, due to the above restriction, homosexual conscripts -- along with gangsters, criminal offenders, drug addicts and Chinese immigrants -- are barred from becoming military police due to "security concerns." According to the AFPC, the military police are responsible for the important tasks of guarding military and government installations, enforcing military law, maintaining military discipline, supporting combat troops and serving as supplementary police. For the sake of military discipline and order, therefore, it is inappropriate for "potentially dangerous elements" -- such as those with Gender Identity Disorder (GID, 性別認同障礙) -- to serve as military police.

The above logic is ridiculous, as no evidence has shown that homosexuality is a threat to the military -- not to mention that homosexuality and GID are different matters. In contrast, sexual harassment of female officers, military abuses and scandals involving heterosexuals frequently occur in Taiwan. Some of our heterosexual officers have committed major crimes, including rape and murder. Why didn't the military also exclude all heterosexuals from serving as military police for "security concerns?"

More seriously, the ban on homosexuals is clearly a violation of basic human rights, especially working rights. According to Article 15 of the Constitution, "The people shall have the right to existence, the right to work and the right to property." To protect and promote human rights, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has vowed to eliminate discrimination. To achieve this goal, the government came up with the nation's first "human rights white paper" on Jan. 31 -- in an effort to show Taiwan's determination to uphold human rights. The military's ban, however, is just like a slap on Chen's face, as homosexuals are not even allowed to guard the Presidential Office or the president's home. Such a discriminatory measure will undoubtedly damage Taiwan's reputation in the world.

The military police have always been careful in their selection of recruits because of the nature of their work. When selecting new blood, nevertheless, they should focus on a man's capability, not his sexual orientation. Meanwhile, the defense ministry should provide educational programs to safeguard human rights, so that it can stop discrimination in the military against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.

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