More than 200,000 people on Saturday marched to celebrate LGBT+ pride in the first Taiwan LGBT Pride parade since Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage in May.
While the legalization of same-sex marriage highlights a major human rights achievement for Taiwan and exemplifies the ideals of a pluralistic, diverse and liberal society that it should be proud of, it does not mean that everything is rosy, as indicated by the parade’s slogan: “Treat gay people as if they were your friendly neighbors.”
Commenting on the slogan, event convener Cheng Chi-wei (鄭智偉) of the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association said he hopes that people “embrace the fact that members of gender minorities are their neighbors, relatives or colleagues.”
Compared with many countries, Taiwan is a progressive, safe and inclusive society. However, people cannot turn a blind eye to blatant problems, such as open discrimination against and mistreatment of Southeast Asian immigrants, for example. Things have improved significantly over the past decade, but that does not mean the struggle is over.
The same goes for the LGBT+ community. As indicated by last year’s referendum results, in which a majority voted against same-sex rights, much more education is needed.
The legalization of same-sex marriage for so long seemed like the endgame, as it constituted much of the discussion in past parades and LGBT+ events, but in reality, it is just the first victory on the road to equality.
The government should be lauded for supporting LGBT+ events and exhibitions, such as this week’s “Future is Now” exhibition at Vieshow Cinema Square, and international forums such as last week’s EU-Taiwan LGBTI Human Rights Conference.
However, as long as there is discrimination, no matter how subtle, and as long as there are employers who do not offer the same privileges to gay people as they do to heterosexual workers, students who are bullied at school for being “different,” parents who speak out against gender equity education and gay people who are terrified of coming out to their family, the marches and activism must go on.
Saturday’s parade was indeed a celebration, but it was also an announcement that the community will continue to be seen and heard. That more than 30 corporations and various countries’ representative offices attended the march is a good sign of leading by example.
However, certain issues need to be worked out, such as adoption rights and transnational same-sex marriages involving a person from a nation where same-sex marriage is illegal, but the biggest hurdle is gender equity education, especially as it involves the entire society.
The problem is that a majority of voters rejected LGBT+ education in schools through two referendum questions. The government in April removed language requiring the teaching of “gay and lesbian education” from the Enforcement Rules for Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法施行細則), but replaced it with broader terms of “different genders, gender characteristics, gender temperaments, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”
This led to a heated debate during a public hearing at the Legislative Yuan on Thursday, as opposition groups called it a violation of referendum results.
The wording, while more inclusive, can be interpreted in different ways, and the debate regarding whether it followed the referendum is likely to continue. Either way, the government will likely face criticism for either not respecting the vote results or not respecting human rights.
Human rights should never be put to a vote, but that is what happened. It will be interesting to see how the government proceeds.
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