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Updated Jun 18, 2024, 9:05am EDT
Southeast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Thailand becomes first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Insights from Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International

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Chalinee Thirasupa/Reuters
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The News

Thailand’s Senate overwhelmingly approved a historic marriage equality bill on Tuesday, paving the way for the nation to become the first in Southeast Asia to recognize same-sex marriage.

The bill gives same-sex couples the same rights in marriage as heterosexual ones in areas including child adoption and inheritance.

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It will now go to the king for royal assent, a step widely seen as a formality, and make Thailand the third country in Asia, after Taiwan and Nepal, to legalize same-sex marriage.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

One step forward, many more to go

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Sources:  
Reuters, Al Jazeera , Human Rights Watch

Campaigners hailed the Senate’s decision as a “a monumental step forward” for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, but some say the bill doesn’t go far enough. While lawmakers replaced references to ‘men,’ ‘women,’ ‘husbands,’ and ‘wives’ with gender-neutral terms, they declined to include the term ‘parent’ alongside ‘father’ and ‘mother’ — which could create complications for LGBTQ+ couples hoping to adopt children, a law lecturer at Mae Fah Luang University told Reuters. Plus, the core issue that transgender people have no route to obtaining legal gender recognition remains, the founder of the Bangkok-based Manushya Foundation told Al Jazeera — leaving many in an often-traumatizing bureaucratic gray-zone, as Human Rights Watch warned in 2021.

Women and LGBTQ+ activists face digital surveillance

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Source:  
Amnesty International

Despite its image as a LGBTQ+ haven in Asia, campaigners say Thailand still has a long way to go to tackle discrimination. A report by Amnesty International in May found that women and LGBTQ+ activists face unlawful digital surveillance at the hands of both state and non-state actors, creating a chilling effect where victims self-censor and sometimes disengage from human rights work altogether. Amnesty said the Thai government had failed to meet its human rights responsibilities under international law. “The reality is that women and LGBTI activists in the country continue to face severe gender-based violence facilitated by digital technology,” a researcher at the organization said.

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