LGBT rights in Thailand

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LGBT rights in Thailand Thailand
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1956. Age of consent equalized to 15 in 1997.
Gender identity/expression Yes
Military service Yes, since 2005
Discrimination protections Yes, since 2015
Family rights
Recognition of

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 regard 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.

In 2013 Bangkok Post said that "...while Thailand is viewed as a tourist haven for same-sex couples, the reality for locals is that the law, and often public sentiment, is not so liberal."[1] Anjaree is the most prominent gay marriage rights organization.

Legal status[edit]

Private, adult, consensual and non-commercial sodomy was decriminalized in Thailand in 1956.[2] The age of consent was set at fifteen years. 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.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]

In September 2015 a law was passed - Gender Equality Act - "to quell discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) communities in Thailand".[6]

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

On March 13, 2015, Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 was enacted and will be effective as of September 9, 2015. The bill criminalizes discrimination among the sexes and genders, including LGBTs; thus, making it the first law that contain language mentioning homosexuals. The law stipulates that unfair discrimination to a male, female or “a person who has a sexual expression different from that person’s original sex” will be criminalized, with the exception of education, religion and the public interest.[7][8]

As of 2014, there are also few official reports of violence or unfair discrimination directed at LGBT people. For example, tolerance for transgender people in the workplace tends to be highest for 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 industries that serve the public (e.g., banking, education, housing, law enforcement, retail) 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.[4]

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.[9][10]

In December 2012, the government formed a committee to draft legislation giving legal recognition for same-sex couples.[11]

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.[12]

In September 2013 Bangkok Post said that Natee Teerarojjanapong, president of the Gay Political Group of Thailand attempt in 2011 to register a marriage certificate with his male partner, was rejected.[1] He asked that "... the official document from the district office specify the reason why they could not get married. - 'According to the Article 30 of the constitution, discriminating against sexual identity is against the law', Mr Natee says. 'I brought that document from the district office to the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand [NHRC] in Bangkok and gave it to NHRC commissioner Tairjing Siriphanich.'"[1]

By 2014, a same-sex-marriage bill had bipartisan support, but was stalled due to the political crisis in the country.[13] In the second half of 2014, reports emerged that a draft bill called the Civil Partnership Act will be submitted to the junta-appointed Thai Parliament. It would give couples some of the rights of heterosexual marriages, but has been criticized due to the raised minimum age from 17 to 20 and the lack of adoption rights.[14]

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.[15]

Yet, In 1989, Natee Teerarojjanapongs, an activist for LGBT-rights stated that the situation is a bit more complicated;[16]

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.[17] A parade in the northern city of Chiang Mai in 2009 stirred such hostility that it had to be canceled. As paradegoers were preparing to march, a local political group surrounded the compound where they had gathered, yelling insults through megaphones and pummeling the building with fruit and rocks.[18]

Thai LGBT studies[edit]

In the 1980s, an Australian scholar named Peter Jackson began to assemble 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.

Media portrayals and censorship[edit]

The entertainment industry accepts us with open arms because we poke fun at ourselves and make people laugh. But if we want to be taken seriously in a field like medicine we are not afforded the same courtesy.——Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya, transgender rights activist and programme officer at UNESCO

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 and sex toys are illegal in Thailand. Pornography charges have been used against LGBT-themed media.

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.[15]


Thailand has committed itself to a comprehensive campaign to stop the spread of AIDS-HIV by educating all segments of Thai society.[19]

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.[19]

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.[19] 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.[19]

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.[19] 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.[19]

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.[19]

Specific AIDS-HIV public health messages are tailored to the different segments of society; i.e. youth, women, migrant workers, military and LGBT people.[19]

Trans life in the country[edit]

Transsexuals are quite common in Thai popular entertainment, television shows and nightclub performances. 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 transgender persons to legally change their name, after having a sex change operation.[20]

Transgender researcher and activist Prempreeda Pramoj Na Ayutthaya claims that there is notable discrimination against transsexual people in relation to education and job opportunities in Thailand.[21] An article in Bangkok Post in 2013, claims that there is societal discrimination against transsexuals in Thailand.[22] An editorial in Bangkok Post in 2013, said "Yet it is also true that we don't find transgenders as high-ranking officials, doctors, lawyers, scientists, or teachers in state-run schools and colleges. Nor as executives in the corporate world. In short, the doors of government agencies and large corporations are still closed to transgender women. It is why they must be self-employed or work as freelancers."[23] Thai law does not give "post-operation" male-to-female transsexual people—who are government employees—the right to wear female uniforms at work.[24]

In 2013 Bangkok Post said that Jetsada "Note" Taesombat, coordinator of the Thai Transgender Alliance, "believes it is crucial for transgender men and women to be legally recognised as part of society. At present, they are legally identified as their sex at birth. 'Transgender men and women also want the civil partnership law to pass, since gender recognition is the most important issue. To legalise same-sex civil partnerships would mean that we, as people with sexual diversity, can finally be recognised legally. The most important thing for me and for everyone is to be accepted as part of society,' Note says."[1]

A 2014 Bangkok Post article said that a Mayathom 1 [grade school] textbook had been criticized for discrimination and lack of gender sensitivity, because the textbook denoted transgender people as gender confusionkhon long pate,[25] and illustrations in the textbook "feature performances by transgender dancers".[25] The word long "has negative connotations. Transgender or kham pate is more suitable".[25] It was reported that Officials at the Education Ministry would look into the matter.[25]

A 2014 Bangkok Post article said that LGBT people "still face discrimination affecting their social rights and job opportunities", according to a report by US Agency for International Development—and the United States Development Programme".[26] LGBT people "still face difficulty gaining acceptance for non-traditional sexuality, even though the tourism authority has been promoting Thailand as a gay-friendly country",[26] and transgender people "cannot change identity papers, and male-to-female transgender people still have to perform military service".[26] Specific cases of inequality include "a hospital which refused to allow a transsexual to stay in a woman's ward, even though she had undergone sexual reassignment surgery". (The report was "prepared and researched over two years", as part of the project Being LGBT in Asia — a project also undertaken in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.[26])

In 2015 ILO researcher Busakorn Suriyasarn said that even with sufficient educational qualifications, transgender people "are barred access to full-time positions, executive positions or work promotions in both the public and private sectors".[27] “Repeated refusals from employment discourage them from trying to engage in the professional world further. They are often discouraged from entering the job market or the professional world because they have been refused on the basis of their gender identity. "Different treatment in the workplace also cuts their careers short because they cannot withstand daily discrimination and humiliation.” Her "research interviews with transgender people revealed a wide range of harassment — verbal, physical and sexual."[27]

In 2016 Paisarn Likhitpreechakul (board member of Sogi Foundation) said that "many lesbians are subjected to rape in order to "cure" their sexual orientation, often by their own family members -- a subject rarely discussed due to the stigma around rape and lesbianism. A father in Loei confessed to having raped his 14-year-old daughter for four years in order to stop her from socialising with tom. Worse, there is a worrying trend that this so-called corrective rape is being normalised in Thai society through the expression Kae Tom Som Dee or "fixing tom and dee" -- dee are the feminine counterpart to tom. This topic will be addressed in a seminar on June 28 at Thammasat University. These cases are surely just the tip of an iceberg, as many more murders of Thai LGBTs are brushed aside as crimes of passion, because the concept of "hate crime" doesn't exist in the Thai legal system. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights identified murder, beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault against LGBT people as homophobic and transphobic violence that "constitute a form of gender-based violence, driven by a desire to punish those seen as defying gender norms", and that violence against LGBT people 'tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes'"[28]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1956)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1997)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2015)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2015)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2015)
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Proposed)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2005)
Right to change sex surgically Yes [29]
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes [30]
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Chaiyot Yongcharoenchai (2013-09-08). "The two faces of Thai tolerance". Bangkok Post. 
  2. ^ Shivananda Khan, Assessment of sexual health needs of males who have sex with males in Laos and Thailand PDF (425 KB), Naz Foundation International, February 2005
  3. ^ Gay Rights in Thailand 2007
  4. ^ a b "Thailand - GlobalGayz". GlobalGayz. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  5. ^ "สภากาชาดปรับเกณฑ์ไม่รับเลือดกลุ่มเกย์-คนสำส่อน หวั่นเป็นแหล่งติดเชื้อ". Manager Online. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Thai junta expected to pass Gender Equality bill, strongly opposed by women rights groups". Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  8. ^ Royal Gazette: Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 (in Thai)
  9. ^ "Commission for marriage rights". Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  10. ^ "Sorry". Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  11. ^ "Thai government drafting same-sex civil partnership law". Gay Star News. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Hundreds back civil unions for gay couples
  13. ^ "Thai marriage equality bill unable to proceed due to political crisis". LGBT Weekly. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  14. ^ "Same-sex marriage may come true under Thai junta". Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Thailand - GlobalGayz". GlobalGayz. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  16. ^ Peter Tatchell Human Rights
  17. ^ "Thailand - GlobalGayz". GlobalGayz. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  18. ^ Liljas, Per (5 March 2014). "Thailand's Intolerance of Its Own LGBT Community Will Surprise You". Time. 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h HIV and AIDS in Thailand
  20. ^ "Thailand - GlobalGayz". GlobalGayz. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  21. ^ "Sex, drugs, stigma put Thai transsexuals at HIV risk | Bangkok Post: news". Bangkok Post. 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Katoey face closed doors
  24. ^ "PAO transgender defends wearing skirt | Bangkok Post: news". Bangkok Post. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2015-08-29. 
  25. ^ a b c d "Gender labels upset Gene". Bangkok Post. 2014-09-12. p. 12. 
  26. ^ a b c d Chananthorn Kamjan (2014-09-17). "Gays still face a battle, report says". p. 4. 
  27. ^ a b JITSIREE THONGNOI. "Trapped beneath the transgender glass ceiling". Spectrum, Bangkok Post. Retrieved 2015-06-07. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Gender Change". Plastic Surgery Phuket. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  30. ^ "Fertility Clinics". Retrieved 6 November 2015.