LGBT Situation in Countries: Research Paper

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The term ‘LGBT’ was first introduced in the 1990s meaning those people who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. It replaced the earlier used term ‘LGB’ that was first used in the early 1980s (Wikipedia. 2018. LGBT.) It is commonly estimated that 1 in 5 people of the world’s population identifies themselves as LGBT (Jennifer Robison. 2002. What Percentage of the Population Is Gay?.), yet, in many countries across the world – even in the Western world – it is still a taboo subject and those who identify as LGBT do not receive the same rights and opportunities as those who identify as heterosexual. However, these estimates are not accurate as often people suppress their sexuality and are unwilling to admit that they are LGBT. In 72 countries across the world it is still a criminal offense to be gay, including 8 countries wherein it can result in the death penalty, and therefore coming out can potentially endanger lives (Duncan, P, 2017. Gay relationships are still criminalized in 72 countries.). Although the majority of Asia Pacific countries have no specific laws against homosexual relationships, it’s not exactly welcomed, and members of the LGBT community are often shunned in society – especially by the older generations. Typically, the Western world seems to be more progressive in its views and treatments of those who belong to the LGBT community, however, there are still pockets of confrontation, such as the Westboro Baptist Church in America, that refuse to acknowledge LGBT people with the same rights and prospects as straight people. Although Asia seems to be lacking in respect for those who identify as LGBT, that may be a changing matter. Taiwan was set to be the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage and shared child custody as well as insurance benefits. In May 2017 the legislative court deemed the existing civil code definition of marriage as being between a heterosexual couple undemocratic – allowing two years to incorporate same-sex marriage into the law. (The Diplomat. 2018. Is Taiwan’s Drive to Legalize Gay Marriage Descending Into Chaos?.) However, the vote on November 24th, 2018, went against the previous consensus that gay marriage was in favor, a frustrating step backward for the LGBT community in Taiwan who hoped that their island would be the first place in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. The outcome of the referendum instigated three LGBT people to commit suicide and there were numerous other suicide attempts and cases of self-harm (The Straits Times. 2018. Taiwan to enact separate law on gay marriage.), this shows how vital equal marriage rights bill is to the LGBT community in Taiwan.

The main driving reason for Asia’s intolerance of LGBT communities is thought to be the deep-rooted Confucian beliefs that are the foundations of most countries across the Asia Pacific. Confucian values spread from their origin in China, of which foundations began in 551 B.C., to neighboring countries such as Korea, Vietnam, and more forcibly, Japan. The spread was notably due to the traveling of the religion through the Silk Road, and then also due to the colonial rule of other countries. Until 2001 being homosexual was still considered a mental illness in China, and as of 2014 same-sex unions have not been legally recognized in any Confucian society (Adamczyk, Amy & Cheng, Yen-hsin. (2014). Explaining Attitudes About Homosexuality in Confucian and Non-Confucian Nations: Is There a ‘Cultural’ Influence?). The differences between the tolerance of LGBT communities in Asian and non-Asian countries are often put down to the societal values that are considered important. Confucianism places great importance on the ideals of family; family is the cornerstone of all societies and filial piety is regarded above everything else. Continuing the family was of huge importance, as those of the older generations do not enter old people’s homes when they are no longer capable of looking after themselves, it falls to the children to step up and look after their family. Confucianism also outlines strict family roles that were expected to be adhered to; the wife was obedient to her father before marriage, obedient to her husband after marriage, and then obedient to her son after her husband’s death. The concept of 从一而终 (one-man wife) literally means “faithful unto death (i.e. Confucian ban on widow remarrying)” (Yabla. 2018. Chinese English Pinyin Dictionary.), also plays a key part in the familial standards of Confucianism, a wife is viewed as an echo of her husband in order to create a domestic harmony; a wife was expected to assist her husband, care for her children and be a virtuous wife and loving mother. These strict family roles left no flexibility for those who identified as homosexual and wished to have an LGBT partnership. Those who put such value on distinct gender roles within the family structure are more likely to be less supportive of homosexuality. This is because homosexuality challenges the traditional gender roles within a relationship and within a family, wherein men and women have their own distinct roles to play and adhere to (Adamczyk, Amy & Cheng, Yen-hsin. (2014). Explaining Attitudes About Homosexuality in Confucian and Non-Confucian Nations: Is There a ‘Cultural’ Influence?).

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Taiwan, however, did not develop under the same circumstances that the majority of Asia did. Taiwan’s roots originate in the Austronesian indigenous groups, the Pre-Austronesian peoples moved to Taiwan from Southern China, displacing Palaeolithic people. A period in Taiwan allowed the Formosan Austronesian languages to develop and diversify and from there rapid movement through the Philippines, Indonesia, and Oceania, to as far east as Samoa was mapped through language chains. The Austronesian peoples lived mostly undisturbed until the first branch of colonialism reached Taiwan in 1622 when the Dutch first arrived on the shores, the Dutch colonial rule finally ended in 1661. At the same time as the Dutch took control of parts of Taiwan, the Spanish also held control of parts of Taiwan from 1626 until 1642. Although throughout history, Taiwan has often been taken over and occupied, they were never really considered a colony as China had too much of a tight grip over the island. (The Guardian. 2018. Taiwan votes down same-sex marriage as China welcomes midterm results.) However, the Dutch and Spanish did not necessarily want a settlement, their main involvement with Taiwan was to do with trading centres and working with the Chinese. It was not always peaceful though, the Dutch often tried to throw the Spanish off the island and there were often spats between the foreigners and the indigenous peoples of Taiwan. Soon after the Dutch colonial rule ended in Taiwan, the Kingdom of Tungning ruled from 1662 until 1683 and then the Qing dynasty ruled from 1683-1895. Followed by Japanese rule from 1895-1945, then the Republic of China’s rule from 1945 until the present day (Wikipedia. 2018. History of Taiwan.). After all these different rules over Taiwan, it’s no surprise that the culture of Taiwan is somewhat different from that seen across other Asian countries. The people of Taiwan have been exposed to various cultures and peoples throughout their history yet have managed to maintain some of their own unique culture through the indigenous groups and customs, however, this exposure to other cultures has partially shaped the way that their own cultures have been developed. Due to the various groups in control of Taiwan at various points in history, the people of Taiwan had to be accepting of people different from themselves in order to progress. This could perhaps be why Taiwan has, arguably, the most progressive views towards homosexual people within their country.

Another difference between Taiwan and the rest of Asia is the main religions that are followed within the country. Whereas a lot of the Asia Pacific follows the traditions of Confucianism and Christianity; the main religions in Taiwan are Buddhism and Taoism, neither of which have any arguable issues surrounding homosexuality within their Holy Scriptures. Nevertheless, much like the rest of the Asia Pacific, homosexuality was a taboo subject for a long time. The first media considering the thoughts and rights of those who identified as homosexual could be argued to be the ‘Crystal Boys’, first published in 1983 in Taiwan. The book follows a boy who was kicked out of his home for having “scandalous relations” with a male classmate, upon leaving home he begins to hang out in a park called New Park, an underground gay cruising area, and hangout for gay men, where he meets the rest of the characters in the novel. This novel was considered a pivotal point in the history of literature surrounding the homosexual community within Taiwan because although it portrayed the negative reaction towards the LGBT community within Taiwan, it also explored the existence of the community and reminded the public that these people were still human (Revolvy. 2017. Crystal Boys.). Shortly after, in the 1990s, the LGBT human rights movement started to gain momentum in Taiwan though, and has since been considered one of the friendliest nations in Asia for members of the LGBT community. There is a considerable gay population within Taiwan and every year there is growing support for the LGBT parade that is held in Taipei, and even in some cities a ‘same-sex partnership card’ is issued to LGBT couples in case of emergency (Revolvy. 2017. LGBT history in Taiwan.). In recent years, places like Ximending (the unofficial gay district of Taiwan), have become very popular for gay people to go and meet other gay people, watch drag shows, and go to gay bars. There is even a club there where there is a floor for lesbian people and a floor for gay people in order to help people meet new friends (Dean Barnes. 2017. Being Gay in Taiwan.) As it stands in Taiwan, in 2018 a separate law for same-sex civil partnerships was proposed but some activists claim that the existence of a separate law will categorise them as second-class citizens. Yet Conservative groups claim that gay marriages should not come under the current Civil code that classifies marriage as between a man and a woman. The referendum, mentioned previously, on whether marriage should be inclusive of same-sex couples won more than seven million votes, and so did the referendum concerning whether LGBT unions should be regulated under a separate law (The Straits Times. 2018. Taiwan to enact separate law on gay marriage.).

Aside from Taiwan, there have been breakthroughs in other Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, and South Korea that protect LGBT communities from anti-gay discrimination in workplaces and education settings, Japan even allows LGBT people to serve openly in the military and has done since 2003. Yet, in South Korea, even though since 2003 homosexuality has not been classed as “harmful and obscene” (Crystal Tai. 2018. Why is South Korea so intolerant of its Gay Community?), the discrimination against the community remains far-reaching. Surprisingly, North Korea actually has no laws against homosexual relationships and never has in the history of the country either. However, there is no legal recognition of same sex-relationships, same-sex marriages and it is still unknown whether the hermit country has any laws concerning gender identity or expression (Wikipedia. 2018. LGBT rights in Asia.). Yet those who do identify themselves as homosexual in North Korea are shunned within society, leaving them feeling unsafe and ashamed of their sexuality. There are 4 countries within south-east Asia wherein being homosexual is still classed as illegal; Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, and Myanmar, all have laws against homosexuality, some enforce varying prison sentences for those who are openly LGBT or caught committing LGBT acts and there are some that are laxer with legal punishments. Interestingly, in Singapore, the law states that it is only illegal for men to have homosexual relationships, for women it was legalized in 2007 to have homosexual relationships (Wikipedia. 2018. LGBT rights in Asia.). However, even if some of these countries can be quite negligent in legal punishments, it does not mean that homosexuality is accepted or tolerated in society. There have been cases in Singapore called “corrective rape” wherein, mostly females, have been raped by men to “cure” them of their homosexuality (Huffington Post. 2015. Being LGBT In Southeast Asia: Stories of Abuse, Survival, And Tremendous Courage.). A lot of the time abuse within families towards LGBT persons goes unreported as those who are the abusers feel that the abused deserve it as they are LGBT. This disgraceful treatment of the LGBT community is worse in Brunei especially, wherein being homosexual is punishable by death. Even in the more ‘progressive countries’ there are issues regarding hate crimes against the LGBT community, for example, in Thailand, butch women are being killed in rural areas of the country, and in the Philippines, transgender women are constantly being targeted. This may seem a surprise to some who consider Thailand to be the ‘Gay Capital of Asia’, however, the reality is that over 2.5% of LGBT teenagers in Thailand are sent to temples or monasteries to be “cured” and pushed into monkhood. Some others are either pushed into psychological therapy or are kicked out of their homes altogether. Activists within Thailand claim that the worldwide image of Thailand as being a queer-friendly country is only skin deep and even children’s textbooks “specifically warned against any contact with people who act like members of the opposite sex.” The book “advised students to inform their teacher straight away so they can help adjust those kids' behavior,” (Huffington Post. 2015. Two-Faced Thailand: The Ugly Side Of 'Asia’s Gay Capital'.). Throughout Asia, Taiwan remains to be the most progressive in its attitudes towards LGBT people; recognizing same-sex partnerships in 18 out of 22 jurisdictions, pending adoption of children by same-sex couples, allowing LGBT people to openly serve in the military, anti-discrimination laws concerning sexual orientation and laws allowing transgender people to legally change their gender (Wikipedia. 2018. LGBT rights in Asia.). Due to cultural differences, the West has developed more of an open and accepting view of homosexual relationships, meaning that it is often a topic that has strongly opinionated views in favor of things such as same-sex marriage. As of January 2019, over 15 countries in Europe have legalized equal marriage rights and from only one state in 2004, all 50 states in America by 2015 have expanded their marriage equality rights through various court rulings and direct votes. In contrast, there is currently none of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries that have fully legalized same-sex marriage, and none have offered protection to same-sex couples or entitlement to adopt children either (Huffington Post. 2015. Being LGBT In Southeast Asia: Stories of Abuse, Survival, and Tremendous Courage.).

Within the younger generation, there have become more and more demands for the government to step up in its progressive views and provide the opportunity for equal marriage rights between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples. Every year, the support for LGBT communities and rallies increases and on 28th October 2017, Taiwan saw its biggest-ever turn out for an LGBT parade in Taipei. It was estimated that over 120,000 people attended, showing an ever-growing progressive approach to the “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender demographic” (Asia News Monitor. 2017. Taiwan/China: LGBT pride parade draws record numbers.). The fight for LGBT equal rights in Taiwan and the rest of Asia continues, however, a Ministry of Justice representative of Taiwan claimed that the government will consider any local marriage-licensing offices as violating the law if they refuse same-sex couples before May 2019 (The Guardian. 2018. Taiwan votes down same-sex marriage as China welcomes midterm results.) – suggesting that although the referendum didn’t move in the LGBT favor, it is still a work in progress. There is the belief that once one country within Asia legalizes same-sex marriage the rest of the countries will follow suit; however, I do not think that this is perhaps the case. I feel that Taiwan will probably be the first to legalize the matter, and I think that they will provide hope to LGBT communities across the rest of Asia, hope for a better future where they are able to freely love whom they wish and enjoy the same rights and opportunities as the rest of the society. However, I think the LGBT community across Asia still has a lot of fighting left to do before they can be presented with the same rights that everyone else possesses.  

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LGBT Situation in Countries: Research Paper. (2023, October 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/lgbt-situation-in-countries-research-paper/
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LGBT Situation in Countries: Research Paper. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/lgbt-situation-in-countries-research-paper/> [Accessed 30 May 2024].
LGBT Situation in Countries: Research Paper [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Oct 27 [cited 2024 May 30]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/lgbt-situation-in-countries-research-paper/
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