When news broke yesterday that Taiwan’s constitutional courts had ruled in favour of same-sex marriage, I felt extremely happy for the Taiwanese and at the same time sad for us in Singapore. Taiwan’s civil society movement is way more advanced than in Singapore and this is largely due to the tireless efforts of activists who have pushed for their rights.
Not to say that the activists in Singapore are not doing their best. In fact, I believe activists in Singapore are doing what we can within the scope we are able to. Unfortunately, the government does not look kindly on activism and sees it very much as “trouble making”. Therefore they will often clamp down via various new regulations – such as the latest one about foreigners being excluded from attending events at Hong Lim Park. Given that Pink Dot organises one of the biggest rallies at Hong Lim Park, it is no wonder that people think this is an outright discrimination against the LGBTQ community. However, I feel it also affects other communities and civil society movements in Singapore. Consider the migrant workers who are very much an important part of society in Singapore. Without our domestic helpers and construction workers, who form a foundation upon which many families build their lives upon, would Singapore be able to prosper and grow as much as it has? Yet the new amendment to the law makes it such that even if we want to campaign for better work conditions for migrant workers, the migrant workers themselves would not be able to attend any such events at Hong Lim Park. In the past foreigners could attend as spectators or observers, but now they are not even allowed to do that. Where is the logic in this?
But I digress.
This is a post about Taiwan’s win and I wanted to share 3 specific things I like about this win.
Firstly, obviously I am super happy that an Asian country has now legalised same-sex marriage. For the longest time it seemed Vietnam or Japan would get there first, but Taiwan managed it and the best thing about it is this will not be about creating a “civil union” type of arrangment for same-sex couples. This is for full and equal rights, as it rightfully should be. I’m happy because I’m part Taiwanese. Haha, yes I know long time readers are probably going “har?”. This will confuse people, but there is Taiwanese blood in me and I was technically Taiwanese when I was born. I even had a Taiwanese passport as a child and was registered in a household there. Other than Singapore’s Pink Dot, Taiwan’s pride parade in 2015 was the first one I had ever been to and it will always have a special place in my heart. Zoey was even caught on Taiwanese TV when we were at the parade.
Secondly, I am impressed by the ruling from the justices. They made it very clear that preventing same-sex couples from getting married is unconstitutional and even set a timeline of 2 years for the government to resolve this with the various agencies, failing which it would simply become the law. I was particularly fond of this part –
“(7) The Marriage Chapter does not set forth the capability to procreate as a
requirement for concluding an opposite-sex marriage. Nor does it provide that a
marriage is void or voidable, or a divorce decree may be issued, if either party is
unable or unwilling to procreate after marriage. Accordingly, reproduction is obviously
not an essential element of marriage. The fact that two persons of the same sex are
incapable of natural procreation is the same as the result of two opposite-sex persons’
inability, in an objective sense, or unwillingness, in a subjective sense, to procreate.
Disallowing two persons of the same sex to marry, for the sake of their inability to
reproduce, is a different treatment having no apparent rational basis.”
For the longest time, anti-LGBT groups have continually talked about how marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman because only they can form a family. They completely ignore the fact that not all married couples want kids and there are some who do want children but are unable to. Does that mean we should force people without children to get a divorce? NO. Therefore using the “pro-family” argument against same-sex marriage is invalid and I’m glad this was pointed out.
Read the entire judgement here – http://jirs.judicial.gov.tw/GNNWS/NNWSS002.asp?id=267570
The justices in Singapore could learn a thing or two from this.
Finally, I really like president Tsai Ing-Wen’s statement after the win. She urged for understanding, tolerance and respect while stating that the government will adhere to the timelime to achieve the necessary. In particular I like this last line “我們相信，台灣有成熟的民主機制來化解歧見。” which translates to “We believe that Taiwan has a mature democratic mechanism to resolve differences.”
I hope Singapore will reach such maturity soon and congratulations again Taiwan! Thank you for showing the way and being a shining beacon of hope for the rest of Asia.