Taiwan set to become first Asian country to legalise same-sex marriage

Gay and lesbian relationships were encouraged and found acceptance in the country from the 1990's.

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Same-sex marriages are likely to get legalised soon in Taiwan, with lawmakers working on three separate bills that support marriage equality. The country's first female President, Tsai Ing-wen, has also offered support to givng legality to same sex marriages.

Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy said around 80 percent of Taiwanese between ages 20 and 29 support same-sex marriage. Moreover, a survey done four years ago by Taiwan's United Daily found that while 55 percent of the public supported same-sex marriage, 37 percent opposed it.

Experts also argue that the main religions followed by Taiwanese people, Buddhism and traditional Chinese religions, have no strong objection to sexual orientation. Studies reveal that gay and lesbian relationships were encouraged and found acceptance in the country from the 1990s. The pro-LGBT movements were also aided by the already well-established feminist movement.

Jens Damm, an associate Professor in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Studies at Chang Jung University, who thoroughly studied the case, said: "The elite became in favour of a kind of gender equality."

Taiwanese lawmakers have begun work on three separate bills that would support marriage equality, one of which is already listed for review and is likely to be passed within months. Taiwan's Justice Ministry has not backed a specific bill, but has pledged on the ministry's website that people should maintain an "attitude of openness" towards same-sex marriage.

However, there are some challenges which need to be overcome. First, gay and lesbian couples should come out of the shackle of old perceptions and overcome traditional notion of gender roles and pressure to get married and have kids.

Secondly, the nation, experts argue, need gay and lesbian celebrities who can explain to the general public, while talk shows and written materials can also build support for same-sex relationships.

If Taiwan legalises same-sex marriage it will be the first Asian country to join the group of 20 countries, including Canada, Colombia, Ireland, the United States , which have already legalised it over the past 15 years.

At least 20 Asian and Middle Eastern countries have, however, banned same-sex marriage. "It's a big step forward for the history of human rights...If Taiwan can get this passed ... it will give other Asian countries a model," said Yu Mei-nu, a ruling Democratic Progressive Party lawmaker who is sponsoring the same-sex marriage.

The issues of LGBT people have aways been paid attention to in Taiwan. In October, an annual Gay Pride march in Taipei witnessed huge support as thousands of people took to the streets pushing the government on gay marriage approval. Gays and lesbians have also formed an effective lobby in recent years in the island nation.