LGBT rights in Thailand

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LGBT rights in Thailand Thailand
Thailand (orthographic projection).svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status 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) people in Thailand may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. 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.[citation needed]

In 2013, The 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] The largest organization campaigning for same-sex marriage is Anjaree. A 2014 report by US Agency for International Development—and the United Nations Development Programme said that LGBT people "still face discrimination affecting their social rights and job opportunities",[2] and "face difficulty gaining acceptance for non-traditional sexuality, even though the tourism authority has been promoting Thailand as a gay-friendly country".[2]

Legal status[edit]

Private, adult, consensual and non-commercial sodomy was decriminalized in Thailand in 1956.[3] The age of consent was set at fifteen years. However, same-sex attraction and transgenderism were seen as signs of mental illness or defect.

Changes in attitudes and public policy towards LGBT issues began to occur in Thailand during the 1990s and, in particular, the early part of the twenty-first century. In 2002, the Ministry of Health announced that homosexuality would no longer be regarded as a mental illness or disorder.[4] In 2005, the Thai armed forces lifted the ban on LGBT people serving in the military. Prior to this reform, LGBT people were exempted as suffering from a "mental disorder", according to a law of 1954.

In 2007, the Thai government expanded the definition of a sexual assault or rape victim to include both women and men.[5] The government also prohibited marital rape, with the law stipulating that women or men can be victims.[5]

In May 2009, the Thai Red Cross reaffirmed its ban of men who have sex with men (MSM) becoming blood donors, despite campaigns to change this policy.[6]

Legal protection from discrimination[edit]

None of the various Thai constitutions have mentioned sexual orientation or gender identity. Natee Theerarojnapong, of the government's human rights commission, and Anjana Suvarnananda, a lesbian rights advocate, campaigned unsuccessfully for the inclusion of "sexual identity" in the Interim Constitution of 2006 and the Constitution of 2007.[5] The 2007 Constitution does contain a broad prohibition of "unfair discrimination" based on "personal status" and promises to respect various civil liberties in accordance with "state security" and "public morality".

The Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 was passed on 13 March 2015 and came into force on 9 September 2015.[7] This act banned discrimination according to gender and sexual orientation, and was the first law in Thailand to contain language mentioning homosexuals. Under this law, discrimination against a male, female or "a person who has a sexual expression different from that person’s original sex" is punishable by up to six months in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 baht.[8][9] However, the law specified an exception for "education, religion and the public interest", which was strongly criticised by women's rights groups.[10]

Tolerance for transgender people tends to be highest for television comedians and actors in cabaret shows, based on the traditional practice of kathoey, for example at the Alcazar Theatre in Pattaya. However, few studies have been carried out regarding the extent of discrimination or equal opportunity in other industries or areas of employment.


For several years, the official policy of Thai prisons has been to respect and recognize sexual diversity, placing inmates in cells based on their stated gender and sexual orientation.[11] Homosexual male prisoners, like all male prisoners, have their heads shaved. Female inmates are not allowed to wear make-up, but gay male inmates are.[11] According to the Department of Corrections, there are 4,448 LGBT prisoners in the country—1,804 are katoey (male homosexual), 352 are gay, 1,247 are Tom (female homosexual), 1,011 are Dee (Dee:(ดี) can be use to describe both genders), and 34 are male-to-female transgender.[11]

Homophobic violence[edit]

In 2007, the military-appointed interim government rewrote Thailand's rape law, expanding the definition of rape to include male and transgender victims.[12]

In 2016, Paisarn Likhitpreechakul, a board member of the Sogi Foundation, wrote an op-ed in the Bangkok Post warning of so-called corrective rape being widely used to "cure" lesbians of their sexual orientation, highlighting the case of a father in Loei who confessed to raping his 14-year-old daughter for four years to stop her from socialising with tom. Paisarn expressed further concern that such practices were being normalised in Thai society, and that the true number of such cases was far higher, as many murders of Thai LGBTs are categorised as crimes of passion, because the Thai legal system does not include the concept of "hate crimes". The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights identified murder, beatings, kidnappings, rape and sexual assault against LGBT people as examples of homophobic and transphobic violence and noted that violence against LGBT people "tends to be especially vicious compared to other bias-motivated crimes".[13]

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. 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.[citation needed]

In September 2011, the government's National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), and the Sexual Diversity Network (an NGO) proposed draft legislation on same-sex marriage and sought the Thai government's support for the law.[14][15]

In December 2012, the government formed a committee to draft legislation providing legal recognition for same-sex couples.[16] 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.[17]

In September 2013, The Bangkok Post reported that an attempt in 2011 by Natee Teerarojjanapong, president of the Gay Political Group of Thailand, to register a marriage certificate with his male partner, had been rejected.[1] He requested the official document from the district office specifying the reason for this rejection, and gave it to NHRC commissioner Tairjing Siriphanich in Bangkok.[1]

By 2014, a same-sex-marriage bill had bipartisan support, but was stalled due to the political crisis in the country.[18] In the second half of 2014, reports emerged that a draft bill called the Civil Partnership Act would be submitted to the junta-appointed Thai Parliament. It would give couples some of the rights of heterosexual marriage, but has been criticized for increasing the minimum age from 17 to 20 and omitting adoption rights.[19]

In 2015, a Nida Poll by the National Institute of Development Administration found that 59.20 % of respondents supported same sex marriage while 35.4 % disagreed.[20]

In 2017, following a ruling in favour of same-sex marriage by the Constitutional Court of Taiwan, the government of Thailand responded favourably to a petition that aims to pass the civil partnership bill introduced in 2013. Pitikan Sithidej, the director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department at the Justice Ministry, confirmed he had received the petition and would do all he could to get it passed as soon as possible.[21]

LGBT life[edit]

Thailand had long had a reputation of tolerance when it comes to human sexuality; there are many LGBT nightclubs and bars in the country and the first Thai LGBT magazine began publication in 1983.[citation needed]

However, in 1989 LGBT activist Natee Teerarojjanapongs described the situation as more complicated, as although LGBT citizens do not face direct repression from the state, instead "it is a question of subtle negation through invisibility and a lack of social awareness about homosexual people", and although 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.[22]

This began to change in the 1990s with more public events, such as LGBT pride festivals that were held every year 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.[23] A parade in the northern city of Chiang Mai in 2009 stirred such hostility that it had to be canceled. As participants were preparing to march, a local political group surrounded the compound where they had gathered, shouting insults through megaphones and throwing fruit and rocks at the building.[24]

LGBT and the media[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 have also been common since the 1970s, often as comic relief, although it was not until the New Wave of Thai cinema in the late 1990s that Thai films began to examine LGBT characters and issues in more depth.

Censorship does not affect LGBT-related media directly, but pornography and sex toys are illegal in Thailand, and pornography charges have been used against LGBT-themed media.[citation needed] Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra launched 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 these publications.[citation needed]

Thai LGBT studies[edit]

In the 1980s, Australian academic Peter Jackson began to assemble a Thai LGBT history, through magazines and other Thai publications, leading to the creation of the Thai Queer Resource Centre (which Jackson intends to donate to the Australian National University) and LGBT studies conferences.

Transsexual issues[edit]

Gender-reassignment operations have been performed in Thailand since 1975, and Thailand is among the most popular destinations globally for patients seeking gender-reassignment operations.[25]

Transsexuals are quite common in Thai popular entertainment, television shows and nightclub performances, however transgender people lack various legal rights compared to the rest of the population,[26][27] and face discrimination from society.[1][28]

Transgender people face substantial barriers to employment, including full-time work, executive positions or promotions, according to 2015 research for the International Labour Organization.[29] Discrimination in job applications also often discourages transsexual people from seeking further employment opportunities or entering the job market. The research also found that transsexual people are faced with "daily discrimination and humiliation" which often cuts short their careers.[29] An editorial in The Bangkok Post in 2013 noted 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."[26]

In 2007, the Thai national assembly debated allowing transgender people to legally change their name after having a sex change operation, but as of 2014 this change had not been passed.[2] Post-operation male-to-female transsexual government employees are not granted the right to wear female uniforms at work,[30] and are still expected to perform military service.[2] 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.[2]

In 2014 a Matthayom 1 textbook was criticized for discrimination and lack of gender sensitivity, due to a description of transgender people as suffering from gender confusionkhon long pate,[31] and illustrations in the textbook featuring performances by transgender dancers.[31] Critics argued that the word long had negative connotations, and that "transgender" or kham pate was more suitable.[31] It was reported that officials at the Ministry of Education would investigate the matter.[31]

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 education No
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 marriage No
Recognition of same-sex couples No (Pending)
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 [32]
Conversion therapy banned on minors No
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes (Since 2002)
Transsexuality declassified as an illness No
Right to change legal gender No
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes [33]
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"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Kamjan, Chananthorn (17 September 2014). "Gays still face a battle, report says"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. p. 4. 
  3. ^ Khan, Shivananda (February 2005). "Assessment of sexual health needs of males who have sex with males in Laos and Thailand" (PDF). Naz Foundation International.  (425 KB)
  4. ^ Gay Rights in Thailand 2007 Archived 3 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b c "Gay Thailand News and Reports 2007". Global Gayz. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  6. ^ "สภากาชาดปรับเกณฑ์ไม่รับเลือดกลุ่มเกย์-คนสำส่อน หวั่นเป็นแหล่งติดเชื้อ". Manager Online. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  7. ^ Royal Gazette: Gender Equality Act B.E. 2558 (in Thai)
  8. ^ Jitcharoenkul, Prangthong (18 May 2016). "Learn about LGBTI, say activists"Paid subscription required. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  9. ^ "Thailand's equality laws come into effect". Global Gayz. 10 September 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "Thai junta expected to pass Gender Equality bill, strongly opposed by women rights groups". Prachatai English. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c "A cell of their own"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 4 December 2016. 
  12. ^ Douglas Sanders. Queer Bangkok: twenty-first-century markets, media, and rights. Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong U Press, 2011. Print.
  13. ^ Likhitpreechakul, Paisarn (14 June 2016). "We need to fight homophobia at home"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 
  14. ^ "Commission for marriage rights". Star Observer. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  15. ^ "NHRC will support gay marriage rights". The Nation. 5 September 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  16. ^ Leach, Anna (17 December 2012). "Thai government drafting same-sex civil partnership law". Gay Star News. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  17. ^ "Hundreds back civil unions for gay couples"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 9 February 2013. 
  18. ^ Lee, Steve (10 April 2014). "Thai marriage equality bill unable to proceed due to political crisis". LGBT Weekly. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  19. ^ Mitsunaga, Takato (9 October 2014). "Same-sex marriage may come true under Thai junta". Prachatai English. Retrieved 21 April 2017. 
  20. ^
  21. ^ Thailand to revive gay rights Bill
  22. ^ Tatchell, Peter (October 1989). "Thailand: Gayness, Bar Boys and Sex Tourism". Gay Times. Archived from the original on 30 August 2009. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  23. ^ Ammon, Richard. "No Gay Pride in Bangkok 2010". Global Gayz. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  24. ^ Liljas, Per (5 March 2014). "Thailand's Intolerance of Its Own LGBT Community Will Surprise You". Time. 
  25. ^ Gale, Jason (26 October 2015). "How Thailand became a global gender-change destination". Bloomberg. Retrieved 22 April 2017. 
  26. ^ a b "Katoey face closed doors"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 14 June 2013. 
  27. ^ "Sex, drugs, stigma put Thai transsexuals at HIV risk". Bangkok Post. 23 July 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  28. ^ "Ladyboys lost in legal system"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 3 February 2013. 
  29. ^ a b Thongnoi, Jitsiree. "Trapped beneath the transgender glass ceiling"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  30. ^ "PAO transgender defends wearing skirt"Paid subscription required. The Bangkok Post. 5 July 2012. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  31. ^ a b c d "Gender labels upset Gene". The Bangkok Post. 12 September 2014. p. 12. 
  32. ^ "Gender Change". Plastic Surgery Phuket. Retrieved 6 November 2015. 
  33. ^ "Fertility Clinics". Retrieved 6 November 2015.