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First Southeast Asian country plans to legalize gay marriage

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said he intends to legalize prostitution and sex changes

Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin will introduce a bill next week to legalize same-sex marriage, a move that would make Thailand the first country in the region to do so. Both Thavisin and his opponents have promised to expand LGBTQ rights.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday, Thavisin said his cabinet would debate the marriage equality bill next week. If the cabinet gives its approval, the bill will be brought before parliament in December, a spokesman for the prime minister told the Bangkok Post.

“I see this as important in order for society to be more equal,” Thavisin stated, adding that he would follow the marriage bill with two more pieces of legislation; one allowing transgender people to change their gender on official documents, and another legalizing prostitution. 

The marriage equality bill will likely face little opposition in parliament. Thavisin’s 11-party coalition supports the legislation, as does opposition leader Pita Limjaroenrat’s eight-party alliance, which promised to introduce a similar bill after winning the most seats in this May’s general election, but failing to form a government. 

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Thailand is home to a thriving gay subculture, with this year’s Bangkok Pride parade drawing more than 50,000 participants. However, the country’s laws are conservative, and do not recognize civil unions or cohabitation between same-sex couples.

Similarly, prostitution is illegal, despite the fact that sex is sold openly in Thai bars and on tourist drags; and the government does not recognize sex changes, even though there are almost 315,000 transgender people living in Thailand.

None of Thailand’s neighboring countries recognize same-sex marriage or unions, with homosexuality punishable by imprisonment in both Malaysia and Myanmar. Only two countries in all of Asia – Taiwan and Nepal – grant same-sex couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples.

In his post on Thursday, Thavisin said he had also “ordered the establishment of a working committee to advance gender equality issues,” and would push for Thailand to host the 2028 World Pride festival.

 

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