Image courtesy of Amnesty International Taiwan Facebook
In a series of referendums on November 24 in Taiwan, voters rejected marriage equality and equality education in schools.
Five out of ten of the referendum questions covered LGBT rights and education, with anti-LGBT groups asking voters whether marriage should continue to be defined as between a man and a woman under the Civil Code and whether LGBTI rights education should be banned in schools.
LGBT rights groups asked voters whether the Civil Code should be changed to include same-sex couples and if gender equality education covering LGBT rights should be compulsory in schools.
Up to 35% of all eligible voters supported the anti-LGBT motions, while less than 18% of voters supported the two pro-LGBT rights motions.
“This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan. However, despite this setback, we remain confident that love and equality will ultimately prevail,” said Annie Huang, Amnesty International Taiwan’s Acting Director.
The issue of marriage equality has divided the country for the past few years, with conservative Christian groups blocking progress on equal rights. Taiwan is considered one of the most progressive countries in the deeply conservative Asian region, with a large pride parade and a president who was pro-marriage equality.
President Tsai Ing-wen, head of the Democratic Progressive Party, came to power after announcing her support for LGBTI rights and marriage equality. She has now resigned as leader after local election defeats last weekend in almost half the 13 cities and counties the party won in 2014.
The referendum results will not change the requirement for Taiwan to recognise same-sex relationships, although new laws are now expected to be created without changing the Civil Code and LGBT activists fear these new laws will offer less rights than previously expected.
In a landmark ruling in May 2017, Taiwan's Constitutional Court paved the way for Taiwan to become the first Asian country to recognise same-sex marriage by ruling that current laws blocking same-sex marriage violate the constitution.
The ruling gave Taiwan’s parliament two years to either change existing laws to allow same-sex marriage or introduce new civil partnerships. If in two years Parliament hasn’t abided by the time frame, same sex couples can register to marry. A bill to legalise same-sex marriage was before Taiwan’s parliament in 2017 and it looked like marriage equality would become a reality. However, the legislation was blocked by conservative Christian groups.