A New Dawn Awaits Thailand's Gay and Ladyboy Community
by John Cooke
There have been calls recently in Thailand, from gay activists, that Thailand's new constitution must recognize the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. Thailand is in the midst of a serious political crisis that has been raging for nearly 18th months. In the last few days, its senior political party has been disbanded, and the second largest political party was found innocent of charges of corruption. An election is due for December, 2007.
Thailand's new draft constitution only endorses equal rights between men and women, and has been criticized by gay activists. An activist from a lesbian group said there should be an additional clause in the constitution to recognize what she called, diverse sexuality. The National Human Rights Commission also supports the move to amend the draft charter.
Thailand's gay activists are calling for discriminating laws to be amended, including same sex marriage, rape, inheritance rights and most importantly, job discrimination. Thailand's trans-gendered people, especially, have a very limited work choice. It is quite common, for instance, for university graduates who are ladyboys to have to resort to working as prostitutes to earn their living - surely a huge waste of the country's talent. The recently crowned Miss Tiffany Universe 2007, a ladyboy beauty queen, said a constitutional change could help protect ladyboys against discriminatory practices in the domestic job market. A sad fact for Thailand's gay and ladyboy community is that it accounts for 50% of the country's suicides amongst young people.
There is some good news though. A Thai public health expert has called for more to be done to combat homophobia in Thailand. Also, the country's Constitution Drafting Assembly has said it will propose a clause on gay and transgender rights to be included in the draft charter. In addition, last year the Thai military scrapped its 50 year practice of describing Thailand's ladyboy undergoing the annual military conscription as having a 'mental disorder' - progress indeed.
Thailand is quite tolerant of its gay and ladyboy community, there is currently little in the way of official rights or recognition for the people from these groups. However, many Thai gays and ladyboys - Thailand's ladyboy population is thought to be one the largest in the world - say they see this tolerance as being superficial, and a deep lying prejudice still remains.
As an outsider, one hopes that when Thailand's political crisis is finally resolved that the country's substantial gay and ladyboy community is given the recognition it deserves in the new charter, even including some form of political representation.
If any Thai or foreign gay / transgender persons would like to comment on this story, I would happy to hear your opinions.