Wednesday October 23, 2019
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Same-sex Marriage Referendum Gets Rejected in Taiwan

"This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan,"

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Taiwan
Participants pull a rainbow tarpaulin through the gay and lesbian parade in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 28, 2017. Voters reject legalizing same-sex unions in a referendum, Nov. 24, 2018. VOA

Voters in Taiwan passed a referendum asking that marriage be restricted to one man and one woman, a setback to LGBT couples hoping their island will be the first place in Asia to let same-sex couples share child custody and insurance benefits.

The vote on Saturday, organized by Christian groups that make up about 5 percent of Taiwan’s population and advocates of the traditional Chinese family structure, goes against a May 2017 Constitutional Court ruling. Justices told legislators then to make same-sex marriage legal within two years, a first for Asia where religion and conservative governments normally keep the bans in place.

Although the ballot initiative is advisory only, it is expected to frustrate lawmakers mindful of public opinion as they face the court deadline next year. Many legislators will stand for re-election in 2020.

Marriage, taiwan
Lin Chinxuan, right, holds a reflector as Austin Haung, 32, photographs Kao Shaochun, left, and John Sugden during their pre-wedding photoshoot in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 11, 2018. Chinxuan and Haung are a couple and together they run Hiwow studio photographing LGBTQ couples. VOA

“The legislature has lots of choices on how to make this court order take effect,” said referendum proponent Chen Ke, a Catholic pastor in Taiwan and an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Ruling party lawmakers backed by President Tsai Ing-wen had proposed legalizing same-sex marriage in late 2016, but put their ideas aside to await the court hearing.

Opposition to same-sex marriage crested after the court ruling. Opponents have held rallies and mobilized votes online.

Courts will still consider local marriage licensing offices in violation of the law by May 2019, if they refuse same-sex couples, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said last week.

pride flag, taiwan
The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. wikimedia

“The referendum is a general survey, it doesn’t have very strong legal implications,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan. “One way or another it has to go back to the court.”

Voters approved a separate measure Saturday calling for a “different process” to protect same-sex unions. It’s viewed as an alternative to using the civil code. A third initiative, also approved, asked that schools avoid teaching LGBT “education.”

Amnesty International told the government it needs to “deliver equality and dignity.”

Also Read: Law Legalising Same-sex Marriage Causes Grudges Between Families in Taiwan

“This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan,” Amnesty’s Taiwan-based Acting Director Annie Huang said. “However, despite this setback, we remain confident that love and equality will ultimately prevail.”

Taiwanese also elected candidates from the China-friendly opposition Nationalist Party to a majority of mayoral and county magistrate posts, reversing the party’s losses in 2014. (VOA)

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World Health Organization Says First Local Case of Polio Found in Zambia Since 1995

The U.N. health agency said there is no established link between the Zambia case and the ongoing Congo outbreak

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World, Health, Polio
FILE - A Congolese child is given a polio vaccination at a relief camp near Gisenyi, Rwanda, Jan. 25 , 2002. The WHO says Zambia has reported its first local case of polio since 1995 in a 2-year-old boy paralysed by a virus derived from the vaccine. VOA

The World Health Organization says Zambia has reported its first local case of polio since 1995, in a 2-year-old boy paralyzed by a virus derived from the vaccine.

In a report this week, WHO said the case was detected on the border with Congo, which has reported 37 cases of polio traced to the vaccine this year. The U.N. health agency said there is no established link between the Zambia case and the ongoing Congo outbreak but said increased surveillance and vaccination efforts are needed, warning that “there is a potential for international spread.”

In rare cases, the live virus in oral polio vaccine can mutate into a form capable of sparking new outbreaks.

Nine African countries are currently battling polio epidemics linked to the vaccine as WHO and partners struggle to keep their efforts to eradicate polio on track. Elsewhere, cases have been reported in China, Myanmar and the Philippines.

World, Health, Polio
In a report this week, WHO said the case was detected on the border with Congo, which has reported 37 cases of polio traced to the vaccine this year. Pixabay

On Thursday, WHO and partners are expected to announce they have rid the world of type 3 polio virus.

There are three types of polio viruses. Type 2 was eliminated years ago. That now leaves only type 1. But that refers only to polio viruses in the wild. Type 2 viruses continue to cause problems since they are still contained in the oral polio vaccine and occasionally evolve into new strains responsible for some vaccine-derived outbreaks.

The global effort to eradicate polio was launched in 1988 and originally aimed to wipe out the potentially fatal disease by 2000. While cases have dropped dramatically, the virus remains stubbornly entrenched in parts of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. This year there have been 72 cases of polio in Pakistan after only eight in 2018.

Also Read- US Endorses Smokeless Tobacco as Less Harmful than Cigarettes

In meeting notes from an expert polio oversight board in September, WHO’s Michel Zaffran said the status of eradication was “of great concern,” noting the Taliban’s ban on house-to-house vaccination in Afghanistan. Officials described the program in Pakistan as a “failing trajectory.” (VOA)