Pictures: “Courtesy of Taiwan Tongzhi (LGBT+) Hotline Association.”
What is going on?
On October 28, 2023, an estimated 176,000 people participated in the Pride parade in Taipei, one of the most significant events of this kind in Asia. Apart from the Taiwanese, there were many participants from the neighboring countries and representatives of foreign diplomatic offices based in Taiwan. The European Economic and Trade Office, the de facto EU delegation in Taiwan, was also represented. Support for the LGBTQ community in Taiwan has been increasing steadily over the past several years, leading Taiwan to become the first country in Asia to have legalize same-sex marriages. The parade, which first took place in 2003, grew over the years, and the event, which started as a movement to promote LGBTQIA+ rights, currently serves as a platform to address other issues and has become an essential medium for manifesting Taiwanese identity.
What is the broader picture?
Taiwan is considered one of the most LGBTQIA+ -friendly countries in Asia. It legalized same-sex marriage in 2019 after the Legislative Yuan passed the Act for Implementation of the Judicial Yuan Interpretation No. 748. An annual government survey on gender equality indicates that over 60 percent of Taiwan’s public supports same-sex marriage. Taiwanese politicians often speak publicly about issues of sexuality and gender identity during their campaigns; this year, Vice President Lai Ching-te (賴清德) became the highest-ranking official to join the Pride march.
This step towards including and strengthening Taiwanese citizens’ democratic rights was preceded by the strong mobilization of social movements, including the gender and Indigenous equality movements. As a result of these efforts, in 2004, the Gender Equality in Employment and Gender Equity Education Acts made discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender illegal in employment and education. School curricula have included topics promoting tolerance and LGBT rights since 2011. In 2019, the EU and Taiwan inaugurated “the Program for EU-Taiwan Gender Equality Cooperation and Training Framework (EU-Taiwan GECTF)”. The movement reached significant progress in 2019 as same-sex marriage was legalized. Despite considerable progress, the loopholes remained, and some of them were addressed only recently. Two thousand twenty-three marks two major policy reversals; in January, Taiwan has decided to allow same-sex couples with one Taiwanese and one foreign national to register their marriage regardless of whether the foreign partner’s jurisdiction allows same-sex marriages (including Hong Kong and Macao). Several months later, Taiwan’s legislature passed an amendment that allows same-sex couples to adopt children without biological relations to any partner.
Why it matters?
Taiwan stands out as one of the most inclusive countries for the LGBTQIA+ community. Its pathway toward the legalization of same-sex marriage also highlights the authority of constitutional courts in the process of shaping LGBTQIA+ rights. Having in mind that Taiwan has a legal system based on heteronormative norms stemming from mainstream socio-cultural arrangements that privilege marriage, “natural” biological reproduction, and patrilineal descent, there is still room for improvement, also regarding transgender rights and Queer rights, especially concerning Indigenous identity. It is worth remembering that Taiwan legalized marriage equality as a part of its broader effort to contrast the democratic system of this island nation with China. Thus, advocacy and legal amendments regarding LGBTQIA+ rights have become a way to express Taiwanese identity. Support for LGBTQIA+ is equal to a pro-Taiwan stance for some.