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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Thailand may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Thailand is one of the most tolerant countries in Asia in regards to homosexuality. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Thailand, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Legal status[edit]

Private, adult, consensual and non-commercical sodomy was decriminalized in Thailand in 1956.[1] The age of consent was set at sixteen years. While legal, same-sex attraction or transgenderism were seen as signs of a mental disease or defect. In terms of LGBT issues, changes in attitudes and public policy began to occur in Thailand during the 1990s and, in particular, the early part of the twenty-first century.

In 2002, the Thai Ministry of Health publicly declared that homosexuality was no longer to be regarded as a mental illness or disorder.[2]

In 2005, the Thai armed forces lifted its ban on LGBT serving in the military. Prior to this reform, LGBT people were exempted as suffering from a "mental disorder" law of 1954.

In 2007, the Thai government broadened the definition of a sexual assault or rape victim to include women and men[3] The government also prohibited marital rape, with the law stipulating that women or men can be victims.

In May 2009, the Thai Red Cross reaffirmed its ban of men who have sex with men (MSM) from being blood donors, despite prior campaigns.[4]

Protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity in law[edit]

Template:As of, there are no hate crime or civil rights laws that cover LGBT people, but there are also few official reports of violence or unfair discrimination directed at LGBT people. Today, some non-governmental Buddhist groups prohibit openly gay or bisexual men from becoming monks, but few public or private groups in Thailand officially admit to engaging unfair discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which suggests that a national survey on anti-gay violence and discrimination has been conducted to determine the extent of the problem.

For example, tolerance for transgender people in the workplace, tends to be highest as television comedians and actors in cabaret shows, based on the traditional practice of Kathoey. A notable example of this can be see at the Alcazar Theatre in Pattaya. However, the extent that equal opportunity exists, or does not exist, in other areas of employment or in banking, education, housing, law enforcement or public accommodations has not been formally studied.

Constitutional protection[edit]

None of the previous Thai constitutions expressly dealt with sexual orientation or gender identity. Natee Theerarojnapong, government's human rights commission, and Anjana Suvarnananda, lesbian rights advocate, both campaigned unsuccessfully for inclusion of "sexual identity" in the Interim Constitution of 2006 as well as the formally adopted Constitution of 2007.[3]

The Constitution of 2007 does have a broad prohibition against "unfair" discrimination based on "personal status" and promises to respect various civil liberties in accordance with "State security" and "public morality".

Recognition of same-sex couples and family law[edit]

Thai law currently does not recognize same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships and it is unclear if a same-sex couple or an individual LGBT Thai would be permitted to adopt or have custody of children.

The news of Elton John's civil partnership brought about criticism of the government from the Thai LGBT community, for the lack of such legal recognition in Thai law. Despite the lack of formal legal recognition, Thai same-sex couples tend to be publicly tolerated, especially in the more urban areas such as Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya.

In September 2011, the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (a government body) and the Sexual Diversity Network (an NGO) proposed draft legislation on same-sex marriage and were seeking the Thai government's support for the law.[5][6]

In December 2012, the government formed a committee to draft legislation giving legal recognition for same-sex couples.[7]

On 8 February 2013, the Rights and Liberties Protection Department and the Parliament's committee on Legal Affairs, Justice and Human Rights held a first public hearing of the civil partnership bill, drafted by the committee's chairman Pol Gen Viroon Phuensaen.[8]

LGBT life in the country[edit]

Thailand had long had a reputation of tolerance when it comes to human sexuality, many LGBT nightclubs and bars have existed and the first LGBT Thai magazine began publication in 1983.[9]

Yet, In 1989, Natee Teerarojjanapongs, an activist for LGBT-rights stated that the situation is a bit more complicated;[10]

The problem for lesbians and gay men in Thailand is not one of direct state repression.

Rather, it is a question of subtle negation through invisibility and a lack of social awareness about homosexual people. There's very little overt discrimination against lesbians or gay men.

Nevertheless, though many people acknowledge the existence of homosexuality, they are still not used to the idea of openly gay people. Even fewer have any understanding of the notion of lesbian and gay rights.

This gradually began to change in the 1990s with more public events, such as LGBT-pride festivals that were regularly held from 1999 to 2007, until internal disputes within the LGBT community and arguments with the festival's financial backers, prevented future events from being held [11]

Thai LGBT studies[edit]

In the 1980s, an Australian scholar named Peter Jackson began to assembly a Thai LGBT history, through magazines and other Thai publications, which eventually led to the creation of the Thai Queer Resource Centre (which he hopes one day to donate to the Australian National University) and LGBT studies conferences.

Gender identity[edit]

Transsexuals are quite common in Thai popular entertainment, television shows and nightclub performances and like LGB Thais tolerance is generally demonstrated in the more urban, westernized segments of society. However, the law has only recently begun to address the legal rights of transgender people.

In 2007, the Thai national assembly debated allowing transgendered persons to legally change their name, after having a sex change operation.[12]

Media portrayals and censorship[edit]

Since the 1980s, many LGBT-themed publications have been available in Thailand. LGBT characters in Thai films, often as comic relief, has also been common since the 1970s, although it was not until the New Wave of Thai cinema in the late 1990s that Thai films began to have a more balanced and in-depth look at LGBT people.

Censorship in Thailand as it pertains to LGBT-themes or characters in the mass media has been in something of a vaguer areas then censorship policies directed at protecting "State security" the public image of the State religion or the monarchy. Pornography is illegal in Thailand and sometimes pornography charges have been used against LGBT-themed media. However, sex toys are legal, and in August 2010 Thailand's first Western-style sex shop was established in Bangkok.[13]

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was known for launching anti-pornography campaigns, which were often used to seize and otherwise ban LGBT publications, although the government policy since 2007 has been more liberal towards gay publications.[9]


Thailand has committed itself to a comprehensive campaign to stop the spread of AIDS-HIV by educating all segments of Thai society.[14]

The pandemic was first reported in Thailand in 1984, and some efforts were made to educate prostitutes, drug addicts and men who have sex with men. In 1987, the press first reported on a Thai man named Cha-on Suesom who had contracted the virus through a blood transfusion. The story generated a tremendous amount of interest as Thai citizens learned about the struggle that he and his wife faced, with the disease and public discrimination.[14]

Yet, until 1991, AIDS-HIV generated little government interest and little public money was spent on education. It was then, that a new Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun was elected who backed a more aggressive campaign.[14] His Cabinet included a noted AIDS activist, Mechai Viravaidya, who successfully pushed for a law mandating frequent radio and television public health broadcasts about the disease as well as the introduction of educational classes in every school.[14]

Condom use was promoted, and they were distributed free to Thai prostitutes and at all brothels and massage parlors with laws requiring proper use of condoms.[14] New laws were established to protect the privacy of Thais living with AIDS-HIV and billions of dollars were being spent to fund prevention and health care initiatives.[14]

The Thai government has pledged to provide decent medical treatment to all citizens living with the disease and continues to promote a comprehensive public awareness campaign that has resulted in a significant drop in the number of new infections.[14]

Specific AIDS-HIV public health messages are tailored to the different segments of society; i.e. youth, women, migrant workers, military and LGBT people.[14]

See also[edit]

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