The Thailand Civil Partnership Bill
The Second in Southeast Asia
In July last year, the Thai Cabinet approved the Civil Partnership Bill, which was proposed by the Ministry of Justice to allow same-sex couples to register their partnership. The bill has been submitted to the House of Representatives Coordination Committee for consideration and approval before it will be forwarded to the Parliament for ratification. If the Parliament ratified it, Thailand would be the second country in conservative Southeast Asia to allow such partnerships. Taiwan was the first to legalize it in the region last year.
What this Bill is About
It allows same-sex couples to register their relationship and introduces amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code that will give them the same rights and privileges as straight couples. It will install the legal rights of all individuals of all gender orientations at an equal level. It defines civil partners as a consenting pair of the same sex who can opt for marriage registration if they are 17 years old or older and at least one of whom is a Thai national. Those younger require permission from their parents, legal guardian, or the court. As a couple, they may adopt children, secure inheritance, and engage in the joint management of assets, such as property. The bill also includes rules on separations.
The Bill also states that, in case of death, the surviving partner may inherit, as traditionally married couples can, under the amended Code. Upon registration, couples below 17 will be considered adults. Either partner can also act on behalf of the other as though they were a validly and traditionally married heterosexual pair. Neither of them, however, may get married if they have registered as civil partners. In addition, either may file a divorce suit against the partner who treats someone else as a civil partner.
The Bill is not only considered a milestone in Thailand but also a social reinforcement to families of individuals with different gender orientations. The amendment is also viewed as appropriate in aligning with overall current social circumstances in the world. The Justice Ministry as the proponent of the Bill will take full note of the effectiveness and challenges the Bill may face. It will make necessary adjustments to it when called for in ensuring that the amendments are cohering with those that are already in force.
Evolution of Civil Partnership Bill
The call for an acquiescent attitude towards the growing and more vocal gay community and the campaign for LGBTQ tourism inevitably led to the concept of this Civil Partnership Bill. A bill that would recognize their partnerships developed in 2018 but the legislature was not able to pass it on time before the elections last year. Developments in the region reinforced the original concept when Taiwan legalized same-sex marriage last year. Same-sex weddings have been decriminalized in Vietnam but are still not recognized as valid or legal unions. Under this new Thai bill, same-sex unions are similarly allowed but not recognized as marriages between opposite-sex couples.
The Thailand Civil Partnership Bill Process
Procedural and legislative requirements, however, need to be complied with before a bill can pass into law. A public hearing must first be conducted and then the House of Representatives will have to debate and vote on it. If the House approves, it should proceed to the Senate for consideration, approval, or revisions. This series of acts can take months to complete.
Tolerant but Still Traditionalistic
The bill is not equivalent to allowing or endorsing same-sex marriage. Thailand may appear to be more open to gay and transgender individuals and relationships than other Southeast Asian countries but that is really a misconception. While it has anti-gender discrimination laws, many LGBTQ individuals still experience prejudice or outright violence. Many or most of them find work only in the entertainment sector. If they work in other sectors or industries, they are compelled to keep their gender preference secret. This is because Thailand, like Southeast Asian neighbors, is conservative when it comes to sexuality and sexual relationships. It still inherently upholds traditional family values and deviations lead to stigma. A deputy spokesperson for the government said that the bill is nonetheless a “milestone” towards the state goal of promoting gender equality.
The intended beneficiaries of the new Bill are not all rejoicing over it. Some of them say that it is not really a milestone as it actually is an impediment to marriage. This was the statement of the Secretary-General of Free Youth, a progressive organization of young gays. The first transgender member of Parliament and representative of the Move Forward Party commented that partner benefits, such as tax exemptions, social security benefits, and medical rights are not provided by the Bill. Some of them also object to the assigning of different terms for couples, whether traditional or non-traditional. This has led the Move Forward Party to campaign for the amending of Thai marriage laws into changing terms like “husband and wife” into the non-discriminating “married partners,” that would make gender choices truly inclusive. They described the Bill as simply another and only a disguised form of discrimination. They asserted that they did not want anything special-sounding and demanded to be treated just like anyone else.
They have also started expressing their criticism in social media through the hashtag “No to the Civil Partnership Bill” as not equivalent to marriage. They added that it does not really ensure the same rights as those of opposite-sex marriages nor recognize the engagement of same-sex partners. Responding to these objections, a Thai lawmaker who represents the gay community is working on a bill that will redefine marriage as simply the union between two persons.
A Move in the Right Direction
Despite the initial reactions of discontent among its targeted beneficiaries, the Bill is viewed for its merits and eventual advantages to the LGBTQ community. The civil partnership provides for the legal registration of unions, which is a definite boon to the community and a sign of recognition of their rights. Authorities, in general, believe that if the bill is passed and becomes a law, it would satisfactorily relieve the social pains experienced by the community and provide the needed support sought by LGBTQ people.
About the Author (Author Profile)
Siam Legal is an international law firm with experienced lawyers, attorneys, and solicitors both in Thailand law and international law. This Thailand law firm offers comprehensive legal services in Thailand to both local and foreign clients for Litigation such as civil & criminal cases, labor disputes, commercial cases, divorce, adoption, extradition, fraud, and drug cases. Other legal expertise of the law firm varied in cases involving corporate law such as company registration & Thailand BOI, family law, property law, and private investigation.