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“We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage”, says UK. VOA

Hsu Pei-chieh and her partner Yang Hsun are tired of trying to explain their relationship to everyone else. They’re going steady and share everything down to a parking pass. Hsu, 30, and Yang, 29, want to tell the outside world they’re spouses because they already call each other “wife.”

People will get it if the couple can give their relationship a “name,” said Hsu, a Taipei office worker.


The pair has also worked with Taiwan’s 20-year-old LGBT movement, which is unusually vibrant for Asia because of free speech protections and lack of a strong organized religion. Thanks to that movement, parliament approved Asia’s first bill Friday to legalize same-sex marriage along with a suite of legal protections, such as insurance and inheritance benefits.

“Today, with the passage of the law, I believe it’s got major significance for gender equality and even for the values of broader diversity,” said Hung Ya-li, deputy head of the Taiwan-based Garden of Hope Foundation’s civic dialogue office. “It wasn’t easy to get here.”


Gay rights supporters wait for the results under the rain outside Parliament while lawmakers discuss the same-sex marriage bill in Taipei, May 17, 2019. VOA

Hsu and Yang expect marriage to qualify them for joint travel insurance, faster tax filing and the rights to raise children together. They’re talking about one child, maybe two.

“The two of us haven’t actually run into any huge issues, but when little things come up, they can be troubling,” Hsu said. “It takes a lot of effort and energy to handle the accumulation of things that come up living together.”

First in Asia

Religion, conservative family values and political systems that discourage LGBT activism have stopped momentum in Asian countries from China through much of Southeast Asia into the Middle East. In China particularly, restrictions on assembly and media coverage have stopped the 100 LBGT groups from getting the word out.

Taiwan’s movement meanwhile has spawned annual Gay Pride parades of up to 80,000 people. Thousands stood in the rain outside Taiwan’s parliament Friday to prod legislators into passing the bill.

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Legislators were already facing a deadline from a 2017 Constitutional Court order that required parliament to change laws to legalize same-sex marriage before May 24.

Taiwan joins 27 others

Taiwan will stand out now for its tolerance of LGBT couples, scholars on the island believe.

“If these kinds of people can be more visible, happening in our everyday life, I think that will be quite good,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan.

“I think the law change is the basic infrastructure that we have already pushed forward, which I believe is quite positive for democracy in Taiwan,” he said.


Same-sex marriage supporters shout during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, May 17, 2019. VOA

Worldwide, Taiwan joins 27 countries in legalizing same-sex marriage.

At least 20 same-sex couples are planning a mass marriage registration in Taipei on May 24, a spokesman for the advocacy group Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan said earlier in the month. About 1,200 newlyweds and their invitees will hold a mass party a day later on a blocked-off boulevard outside the presidential office, the event organizer said.

Jay Lin, 45, is one who plans to marry — once his child care obligations allow him the time. He and his partner in Taipei are raising two boys who will turn 3 in June.

“It’s definitely something we’re planning to do,” said Lin, a Taipei-based online streaming service founder. “A lot of gay parents are excited about that already.”

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Opposition votes

The court order of 2017 also brought out Taiwan’s more conservative side, including Christian groups and backers of the traditional Chinese family headed by one man and one woman. They had protested in the streets and lobbied lawmakers, who face re-election next year, to block same-sex marriage.

“Catholicism’s definition of marriage is one man, one woman,” said Chen Ke, a Catholic pastor in Taiwan and an opponent of same-sex marriage. “Nothing else is marriage. We will respect the law, but it’s not our religion.”

Opinion surveys in 2012 and 2015 found that slight majorities of Taiwanese support same-sex marriage, but local media outlet The News Lens and PollcracyLab found in a March 2018 survey that people held “malleable” views based on how the term “legalization” was framed.

In November last year, voters passed a referendum in support of male-female marriages only. Legislators since then have fretted about which side to back.


Same-sex marriage supporters hold roses to mourn those who committed suicide because of discrimination during a parliament vote on three draft bills of a same-sex marriage law, outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan, May 17, 2019. VOA

“I don’t think (parliament) wants to touch this,” said Joanna Lei, CEO of the Chunghua 21st Century Think Tank. “They would just wash their hands of it. Wherever you are, you may be pleasing 50 percent of the people.”

But most legislators who spoke Friday advocated some measure of protection for same-sex couples. (VOA)


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Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon said that the Pegasus snooping issue is India's internal matter.

Israeli Ambassador Naor Gilon on Thursday said that the Pegasus snooping issue is India's internal matter.

The NSO is a private company and it has a license to sell its software to the government entities only, he added.

Gilon said: "This is an internal issue of India and I can't speak beyond this point. This is the only main requirement that... under the requirements, they cannot sell it to non-governmental actors".

Responding to a query if the Indian government will contact them, he said that he has no idea whether the Indian government has contacted them or not.

Referring to the explosion that took place last year near the Israeli embassy in Delhi, he said that the perpetrators are yet to be nabbed; however, the investigating agencies of both countries are cooperating with each other.

"We are thankful to the government of India for providing security to all embassy personnel," Gilon said.

Talking about the newly-formed quad with Israel, India, the US, and UAE, the Ambassador said it is totally an economic forum based on mutual cooperation among the participant countries.

"It has nothing to do with the military component as of now," he added.

Talking about Afghanistan, Gilon said that the country should not be used for extremism.

"There should not be any human rights violation and women and children should not suffer there", he commented.

Saying that Israel is a technologically sound country but it cannot go for industrial manufacturing, the partnership between India and Israel can work better for industrial productions.

Sharing the details of the recently-concluded visit of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, he said that the visit was most successful in terms of bilateral relations.

Jaishankar met all important Ministers of the Israeli government and also met the Indian Diaspora, the Indian Jews who have recently settled there.

"It was a very warm visit, very friendly which I think emphasized the strategic partnership declared during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Israel. I think that the visit was in the spotlight of 30 years of diplomatic relations which we are going to celebrate on January 29 next year," Gilon added. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: Israel Politics, Indian Diaspora, Pegasus issues, Pegasus snooping issue, a partnership between India and Israel.


Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Sher Bahadur Deuba governmentrecommended veteran diplomat Shanker Sharma as the next ambassador to India.

The Sher Bahadur Deuba government on Thursday recommended veteran diplomat Shanker Sharma as the next ambassador to India.

Sharma earlier served as Vice Chairman of the National Planning Commission and Nepal's Ambassador to the United States of America from 2009 to 2013.

The post in the New Delhi embassy of Nepal fell vacant recently after Deuba recalled the ambassadors from 12 countries including India. The outgoing ambassador, Nilamber Acharya has already returned to Kathmandu.

Sharma has extensive experience in government, international institutions, and economic research. Before joining the National Planning Commission as a member in 1997, he worked as a Senior Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance, Nepal; a Senior Economist in the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore; and a Fellow in the East-West Center, Hawaii. He also served as a Professor of Economics in the Centre for Economic Development and Administration, Tribhuvan University.

He worked regionally and globally for many organizations, such as the UNESCAP, World Bank, and ASEAN. Sharma is close confident of Prime Minister Deuba. (IANS/JB)


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Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that 2022 will be celebrated as the friendship year for India and ASEAN countries

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday announced that 2022 will be celebrated as the friendship year for India and ASEAN countries as both have completed 30 years of partnership.

The event will coincide with India's celebrations of the 75th year of Independence from the colonial regime, he added.

While participating in the 18th edition of the India-ASEAN Summit, Modi said, "India is committed to deepening its relations with the next presidency, Cambodia and country-coordinator Singapore."

"History is witness to the fact that India and ASEAN have had relations for thousands of years. India-ASEAN relations are reflected in everything, including in our shared values, traditions, languages, scriptures, architecture, culture, food," the Prime Minister noted.

Speaking about the Covid pandemic which engulfed the whole world, he further said that the Covid period was also a test of India-ASEAN friendship. "Our mutual ties in the Covid time will keep strengthening our corporations in future and form a base for goodwill between our people," Modi added.

He further said that the unity and centrality of ASEAN have always been a priority for India and history has witnessed the fact that "we have had ties since thousands of years," he said.

The Prime Minister also said that India's Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and ASEAN's Outlook for the Indo-Pacific are the framework for their shared vision and mutual cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

During the Summit, the head of the member states will review the progress of India and ASEAN Strategic Partnerships which was signed in 2012. They will also review the progress achieved in the sectors like Covid-19, health, trade and investment, connectivity, education among others, the officials of India's Ministry of External Affairs said. (IANS/JB)

Keywords: India, and ASEAN partnership, COVID-19, India, and ASEAN, India, and history, Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative.