Thu, Dec 25, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Taipei Watcher: A gayer Taiwan is a happier Taiwan

Countries with progressive social attitudes towards homosexuality rank highest in a list of the world’s happiest nations

By Eddy Chang  /  Staff reporter

“Fashion godfather” Ivan Hong bows to nearly 300 guests who attended his marriage to boyfriend Lu Fong-chi in Taipei on Dec. 6.

Photo: Chen Yi-kuan, Taipei Times

As the year draws to an end, Taipei Watcher would like to thank readers for your support, as this columnist strives to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and the various challenges facing them. And though challenges remain — Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang's (呂學樟) remarks on Monday at the Legislative Yuan that homosexuals are “scary” and that legalizing same-sex marriage is encouraging “bestiality” are just the latest example — positive signs have emerged for the LGBT community this year.

According to a survey by Gallup Inc, Taiwan was listed as the world’s 39th most LGBT-friendly country. Thirty-nine percent of respondents say the country is welcoming, while 42 percent say that it isn’t. Taiwan ranks second among all Asian countries surveyed, behind the Philippines, which is listed as the world’s 22nd most LGBT-friendly country.

The poll, conducted in 123 countries last year and released this year, saw 28 percent of respondents saying that their city or area is a “good place” for gays and lesbians to live. The world’s top three LGBT-friendly countries are the Netherlands, Iceland and Canada, where same-sex marriage is legally recognized. In 2001, the Netherlands became the world’s first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

“Hospitable attitudes range widely from as high as 83 percent in the Netherlands to as low as 1 percent in Pakistan and Senegal,” the poll says, adding that it was unable to conduct the survey in certain countries where homosexuality is legally banned, especially in some African and Muslim nations.

Take Taiwan’s neighboring country Indonesia for example. Only 2 percent of respondents say their country is a safe place for homosexuals to live. In September, lawmakers in the Indonesian province of Aceh even passed a law to punish gay sex publicly with 100 lashes.

ASIA’S BEST PLACE?

Taiwan is relatively friendly to LGBT people compared to most Asian countries. In October, the New York Times published a report, “For Asia’s gays, Taiwan stands out as beacon,” praising our open society. Gay Star News, an online news site, also released an article in 2012, “Why is Taiwan the best place to be gay in Asia?” in which it lauded our friendliness to homosexuals.

“Taiwanese culture is based on Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. Buddhists are very tolerant of almost everything because they think there’s a reason for it, so they have to respect it,” gay activist Nelson Chen (陳敬學) told the Web site.

“Another explanation is that because Taiwan has been occupied by the Dutch, the Spanish, China and Japan, Taiwanese have quickly adapted to different cultures. Also a lot of young Taiwanese go to study abroad and we get a lot of information from other countries because the Internet is not censored like it is in China,” Chen added.

Victoria Hsu (許秀雯), a lawyer and the CEO of Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (伴侶盟) who was also interviewed, echoed Chen’s views.

“[Taiwan] is already a diverse society. So I think that’s one of the reasons we are a little bit more gay-friendly than some other Asian countries,” she said.

However, Hsu adds, discrimination against homosexuality now exists in a more subtle way.

“We don’t criminalize homosexual conduct in our Criminal Code — we don’t have such terrible laws. But in the employment area and some other areas there’s still a lot of discrimination against LGBT people,” she says.

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