Thailand praised for recognizing LGBT rights

pix5Human Rights Watch and other groups praised Thailand for recognizing and protecting the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people last week as the country’s first law guaranteeing those rights came into effect. Meanwhile, the Film Office submitted a gay-themed movie as the Kingdom’s entry for this year’s Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.

Parliament passed the 2015 Gender Equality Act in March. The law is designed to protect members of the LGBT community and aims to punish discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Although Thailand has long been noted for its generally tolerant attitudes towards LGBT, the law is the first piece of legislation explicitly guaranteeing their rights.

The Act is “the first national legislation in Southeast Asia to specifically protect against discrimination on the grounds of gender expression,’’ wrote Kyle Knight, a researcher at Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program on the organization’s website. “By incorporating language designed to protect people of all gender expressions, the act could make a crucial difference in Thailand.”

Thailand has a national identity card system, and it now allows for transgender people to change their birth gender. Some politicians raised the possibility of legally allowing same-sex marriage in 2012, but the issue was put on the backburner as political conflicts over other issues began to dominate.

“The progress of the Gender Equality Act, and the momentum that created it, ought to inspire Thailand to proudly take on a leadership role on LGBT rights in the region,” Knight wrote.

Somchai Charoenamnuaysuk, Director-General of the Department of Family Affairs and Family Development, said that the law bars government agencies, private organizations, or individuals from formulating anti-gay policies, rules, regulations, measures, or operating procedures.

The law defines “unfair discrimination among the sexes” as any action that “segregates, obstructs or limits the rights” of a person because they have “a sexual expression different from that person’s original sex.”

Somchai said, however, the public needs to act as a watchdog to ensure that the law is followed and report cases of discrimination. A 2014 report by the International Labor Organization said that transgender Thais face major barriers to employment.

That is often not the case in the entertainment industry, however, and last week Thailand submitted a gay-themed film as its entry for this year’s Academy Awards in the United States in the Best Foreign Film category.

How to Win at Checkers (Every Time) is the story of an 11-year-old being raised by his gay older brother in a Bangkok suburb. It was screened earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival.

Thailand has produced several successful films dealing with LGBT issues, including Satree Lex, the story the national women’s volleyball team with transgender members, and Beautiful Boxer, the story of Nong Toom, a famous Muay Thai boxer who was transgender. Both were true stories.



Thailand Focus October 5th, 2015
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