Can human rights be decided by public referendum?
The Central Election Commission (CEC) on April 17 passed the initial review of three referendum proposals against same-sex marriage, including whether the right to same-sex marriage should be protected under the law, whether marriage should be defined as exclusively between a man and a woman, and whether the Ministry of Education should implement provisions concerning homosexuality education in the Enforcement Rules for Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法施行細則) at elementary and junior-high school levels.
Surprisingly, these proposals, which obviously contravene the spirit of democracy, passed the commission’s review.
The issue of same-sex marriage, a basic human right, will now be subject to a referendum.
With the passage of the referendum proposals, Taiwanese society will have to start rebuilding its civil rights.
Such a regressive decision might not have come as a surprise under the authoritarian system during the Martial Law era, but now it has happened in a maturing democracy and under the rule of law. It leaves the confusing feeling that Taiwanese are suddenly out of phase with time.
That the CEC would pass such dark proposals is a direct slap in the face to President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文). Everyone remembers how Tsai more than once during her election campaign said: “My name is Tsai Ing-wen and I support marriage equality.”
That statement moved many people who believe in democracy. The president’s opinion was already approved by the public, so in a way, the presidential election was the most open and fair of referendums.
Why should there be another vote? Were Tsai’s pledges just a joke and did she simply deceive voters? Could it really be that the general public is less intelligent than the myopic Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family?
A presidential election ranks much higher than any referendum. Despite this, the commission has passed proposals that contravene basic human rights as if intentionally creating problems for Tsai. When voters elected her, they endorsed her political views.
During the authoritarian era, gender equality was openly suppressed. Not only were LGBT people stigmatized, but women were also discriminated against in the Civil Code. Taiwanese can finally enjoy gender equality, but marriage equality is still treated with utter contempt.
The commission should be composed of intelligent people, so how can they so quickly forget that Tsai’s pledge was endorsed by voters?
Marriage equality is a basic human right and also an important cornerstone of universal values. Should basic human rights be subject to voting?
If the commission members have a basic understanding of history and democracy, they should know how Taiwanese shook off the dark authoritarian era. Taiwanese must never forget how many LGBT people cried themselves to sleep because of the discrimination they faced.
The democratic way of life enjoyed today was created by all Taiwanese. How can it be that only heterosexuals are now allowed to enjoy this democracy?
Taiwanese are unlikely to forget that the Council of Grand Justices’ constitutional interpretation from May last year declared the Civil Code unconstitutional for its exclusion of same-sex marriage. The interpretation was an endorsement of the Tsai administration, yet the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) continues to equivocate on the issue.
The DPP, holding a legislative majority, promised to include the legalization of same-sex marriage on the legislative agenda, but it is clear that these were empty words. This offers anti-LGBT groups an opportunity.
Now that local elections are approaching, the issue is certain to be delayed further.
Only an utterly irresponsible political party would allow basic human rights to be decided in a referendum and it is a great humiliation to civil society.
Chen Fang-ming is a professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
With its passing of Hong Kong’s new National Security Law, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) continues to tighten its noose on Hong Kong. Gone is the broken 1997 promise that Hong Kong would have free, democratic elections by 2017. Gone also is any semblance that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) plays the long game. All the CCP had to do was hold the fort until 2047, when the “one country, two systems” framework would end and Hong Kong would rejoin the “motherland.” It would be a “demonstration-free” event. Instead, with the seemingly benevolent velvet glove off, the CCP has revealed its true iron
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei. However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong. There might be more
All lives eventually come to an end. Over the years, my friendship with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had its ups and downs. Lee’s passing was a heavy blow and has left me deeply saddened. We experienced a lot together and the memories have come flooding back. Lee was born several months earlier than me. During World War II, he was studying at Kyoto Imperial University, but halfway through his studies, he was forced to change his name and enter military service. I was studying at Tokyo Imperial University, but went into hiding to avoid military service, and I was later