by Sofia Silei

On June 18, Thailand made an important historic step in the recognition of LGBTQ+ rights, becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to legalise same-sex marriage. The Thai Senate, under the government of Srettha Thavisin, passed a law that radically changed the civil rights landscape in the country, so much so that it was greeted with celebration and strong support from the population.

This new rule is also a significant milestone for the whole of Asia itself. Although Taiwan and Nepal had already made progress in this direction, Thailand’s decision has a significant symbolic and practical impact, considering the socio-cultural context of the entire region. The new law generally promotes a fairer society.

In more detail, the bill amends the Civil Code of Thailand, replacing, for example, the terms “men and women” and “husband and wife” with neutral expressions such as “individuals” and “marriage partners”. This grants LGBTQ+ couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including inheritance, adoption, and health decisions.

Thailand’s decision stands out in an area of the world where LGBTQ+ rights are often overlooked or even repressed. Countries like Myanmar and Malaysia, in this sense, maintain colonial laws that criminalise same-sex sexual acts, while in other states like Brunei and Indonesia, LGBTQ+ people face severe discrimination and violence. Thailand, with its tradition of tolerance influenced by Buddhism, emerges as a beacon of hope and progress in a region where the LGBTQ+ community often lives in the shadows.

Reactions to the new law were enthusiastic. Rainbow-coloured celebrations have invaded Bangkok, and Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has participated in Pride Month parades, reinforcing his government’s message of inclusiveness. “It is a fundamental right to choose who to love”, Thavisin said, stressing the importance of this law for human rights.

Despite the triumph, the road to complete equality of rights in Thailand is not without obstacles. Transgender people, for example, will continue to be legally recognised according to the sex assigned at birth, and there are still no changes in official documents. However, the approval of the law on same-sex marriages is a fundamental first step.

Thailand now joins a select group of countries that have legalised same-sex marriage, distinguishing itself as a progressive nation in a global context often marked by resistance and discrimination. In many countries, the battle for LGBTQ+ rights continues, with many nations still far from recognising same-sex marriage.

In conclusion, the passing of the law on same-sex marriages in Thailand represents a historic turning point not only for the country, but for the entire Southeast Asian region. This achievement shows that, despite the challenges, progress towards greater equality and justice is possible. Thailand has sent a clear message to the world: love is a fundamental human right, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

With King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s signature waiting as a formality, Thailand is preparing to enter a new era of inclusiveness and civil rights, offering hope and inspiration to millions of LGBTQ+ people across Asia and beyond.

On the cover photo, during the pro-LGBTQ and pro-democracy protest, the longest Pride flag was proudly held by hundreds of people marching in downtown Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand- Nov. 7, 2020) ©Watsamon Tri-yasakda/