Tue, Oct 28, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Laws drafted to end death penalty, legalize gay unions

SOCIAL REFORMS The Cabinet and Presidential Office are working on a proposal that officials said would protect basic human rights

AFP , TAIPEI

The government is drafting legislation to abolish the death penalty and legitimize gay marriages, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

If the laws are approved by the legislature, Taiwan would be the first country in Asia to legalize marriages among people of the same sex.

Jointly drafted by the Presidential Office and the Cabinet, the proposal is designed to protect basic human rights, the official said.

"More than half of the draft has been completed so far, of which the gradual removal of the death sentence was ratified," he said.

Last October, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) announced that the nation would gradually phase out capital punishment.

The Presidential Office said yesterday the move to abolish the death penalty would ensure the right to life to everyone, including convicted criminals.

The government is also seeking to legitimize gay marriages and recognize the right of homosexual couples to adopt children, he said.

"The human rights of homo-sexuals have been gradually recognized by countries around the world," a local newspaper said quoting the Presidential Office.

"To protect their rights, people [of the same sex] should have the right to wed and have a family based on their free will," the paper said.

At present, gays and lesbians are not considered as prospective parents.

The Taiwan Gay and Lesbian Association hailed the legislation which its officials described as an act of "goodwill" from the government.

"It would be our pleasure to see the development. Basically we are positive toward the goodwill from the government," said Chan Ming-chou, an official with the association.

However, Chan told reporters that there was still a long way to go before discrimination against homosexuals ends.

The final draft of the bill is expected to be ready for legislative review in December, the Cabinet official said.

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