Do Thai politicians really care about LGBTI issues?

Thailand's first trans female candidate for prime minister campaigns in central Bangkok (Photo: Facebook)

After half a decade of military junta rule, up to 52 million Thais will head to the polls this weekend.

It is unclear how much political power the generals will concede. But, nearly 80 parties and more than 2,700 candidates are competing for votes in the polls.

Seven million youngsters will be voting for the first time.

The elections are also, on the face of things at least, the most LGBTI-inclusive yet.

Most political parties have included LGBTI policies, such as same-sex partnerships, in their manifestos.

What’s more, a trans woman has made history by running for prime minister.

‘This is the first time we’ve seen LGBT issues raised in party policies’ explained Kath Kangpiboon, transgender activist and University lecturer.

A lot of LGBTI people are also running for office, she said. ’Politics need an LGBT space’.

But, experts warn, politicians may only be giving lip service to LGBTI issues.

Predominantly-Buddhist Thailand is conservative, but the country is becoming more accepting of LGBTI individuals. It has long been an LGBTI tourist destination.

A gay wedding ceremony in Thailand (Photo: Youtube)

A gay wedding ceremony in Thailand (Photo: Youtube)

Same-sex unions and LGBTI education

Late last year, the junta cabinet drafted a same-sex unions bill and passed it to parliament.

While falling way short of marriage equality, it will afford same-sex couples some legal recognition. At the moment, no countries in Asia recognize same-sex unions.

It was widely seen as an effort by the generals to boost popularity ahead of elections. (They also promised to legalize cannabis).

The military’s biggest contender, the Future Forward Party (FFP) has also tried to woo voters with pro-LGBTI policies.

FFP has promised to amend the Civil Code to make marriage between persons rather than a man and a woman.

They’ve also proposed LGBTI-inclusive changes to the curriculum.

Thailand’s LGBTI party

Pauline Ngarmpring made history in these elections by running for Prime Minister.

She’s a member of the pro-LGBTI Mahachon Party.

Ngarmpring and the Mahachon Party have made headlines with their slogan ‘Diversity is Thailand’s Pride’.

The party is fielding more than 20 LGBTI candidates.

What’s more, they have the most progressive policies. They are proposing a law that would allow transgender Thais to change gender with ease.

But, the fringe party is not expected to gain many seats in elections.

Prior to Election Day, Ngarmpring has already had a positive impact on transgender awareness, Kangpiboon said.

’She is an inspiration to the community’ Kangpiboon told Gay Star News. ‘Her motivation and capacity show the ability of trans people. Society will learn to accept gender identity’.

Thai politician Pauline Ngarmpring (Photo: Facebook)

Thai politician Pauline Ngarmpring (Photo: Facebook)

Not a political issue

But, activists and political commentators warn, while politicians are courting the LGBTI vote, there is little dedication to rights-improving policies.

‘LGBT rights have never been properly discussed by political parties in Thailand’ Titipol Phakdeewanich, Dean of the Faculty of Political Science, Ubon Ratchathani University, told Gay Star New.

While political parties may mention LGBTI issues, he said, their policies lacked any depth.

‘We don’t see a strong determination to tackle LGBT rights issues’ Phakdeewanich said.

Kangpiboon said most political parties love to talk about LGBTI rights to get new voters.

But, she said, ‘I have not seen any promises on LGBT policy. I only see a space to talk about LGBT visibility’.

Author: Rik Glauert

The post Do Thai politicians really care about LGBTI issues? appeared first on Gay Star News.

India appoints beauty queen to motivate transgender voters

Trans beauty queen Bishesh Huirem (Photo: Facebook)

The election commission of India’s northeastern state Manipur has engaged a local transgender model and actress to motivate the community to vote.

India’s general elections starting next month will be the first time trans Indians can vote as a third gender.

But, according to local media, not many transgender voters have registered.

Nearly 39,000 voters have registered as ‘third gender’.

But, a 2014 census found there to be at least 500,000 Indians who identified as transgender.

In South Asia, many people identify as a third gender, such as Hijra.

Hijra may have been assigned male at birth but live as women.

Some also identify as trans or intersex or just as Hijra.

Bishesh Huirem

Manipur enlisted transgender mode, actress, and beauty queen Bishesh Huirem as one of the ’state icons’ to encourage voter registration.

Bishesh represented India in the world’s largest trans beauty pageant, Miss International Queen.

‘Every vote counts’ the election commission wrote in a post sharing a video of Bishesh. People are can vote ‘irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender’, it said.

‘It is a great privilege to be appointed as a state icon’,’ she told The Telegraph.

‘Not only transgenders, I will to try to encourage more and more people to vote in the general elections.’

So far, only 26 people have registered as a third gender in Manipur, the paper reports.

Bishesh said the community was still reluctant to come out in the open and prefer to enlist themselves either as male or female in official documents.

Elsewhere in India, election officials held a mock polling booth and invited trans community members to practice voting.

Trans visibility

Sneha Kale made headlines as the first-ever trans woman to run in the general election.

Last week, local government of one of India’s largest states, Karnataka, last week appointed its first transgender employee.

Last month, India’s first Miss Trans Queen joined one of the country’s largest political parties.

Earlier this year, the same party appointed its first transgender office-bearer.

Trans gurus also made history earlier this year by leading a religious procession.

Violence continues, however. One trans politician running for office in Hyderabad went missing during her election campaign.

Last month, a man decapitated a trans priestess in her temple.
India’s Supreme Court in 2014 recognized trans identities as a third gender.

But, the community remains marginalized. Families and employers shun trans individuals.

What’s more, activists have slammed a trans rights bill currently in the Upper House of Parliament. They say it further infringes rights rather than protects them.

 

Author: Rik Glauert

The post India appoints beauty queen to motivate transgender voters appeared first on Gay Star News.

India’s oldest political party mulls LGBTI rights in election manifesto

Transgender community protesting in Bengaluru (Photo: Facebook)

India’s major opposition party the Indian National Congress (INC) is reported to be including LGBTI rights in their election manifesto.

INC will consult on the controversial Transgender Rights Bill. It may also make gender-sensitivity training mandatory for government bodies, according to The Print.

Its manifesto may also include better implementation of India’s landmark decriminalization of gay sex.

The party might also establish a women empowerment and justice department, according to News 18.

Section 377

India made history in September last year when it struck down Section 377 of its Colonial-era Penal Code.

The archaic law punished gay sex with up to 10 years in jail. But, the Supreme Court ruled the law was unconstitutional.

But, the LGBTI community has warned, society will take time to change. Homophobia is still rife in the country.

A transgender bill currently in the Upper House of parliament, meanwhile, has riled the trans community.

While India’s Supreme Court recognized a third gender in 2014, transgender Indians remain marginalized.

Trans Indians say the bill enshrines discrimination rather than fights against it.

More than 900 million Indians are eligible to vote in the Lower House of Parliament elections in April and May.

Congress

The INC was founded in 1885 prior to India’s independence.

Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, it became a force in India’s independence from Britain.

INC has already made the headlines this year for LGBTI inclusion.

In January, transgender activist Apsara Reddy became Indian National Congress party’s first transgender office-bearer at the national level.

INC appointed Reddy national general secretary of the party’s women’s wing, known as the Mahila Congress.

‘To be welcomed into one of India’s largest and oldest national parties is hugely emotional for me’, Reddy said.

Last month, India’s first Miss Trans Queen, Veena Sendra, joined the Indian National Congress (INC) party.

‘Today, Miss India ‘Trans Queen’ Veena Sendre joined the party expressing faith in the ideology of Congress’ INC tweeted.

‘When we say we are inclusive. We mean it’ the party also tweeted.

Author: Rik Glauert

The post India’s oldest political party mulls LGBTI rights in election manifesto appeared first on Gay Star News.