Pride Month is for everyone

Pride Month is for everyone

June marks LGBTQI Pride Month, celebrating people who are "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex". I think most of us agree with US President Joe Biden's declaration that LGBTQI people are loved and cherished, and they deserve "dignity, respect and support".

Most people who identify as part of the LGBTQI community have grown up in a world that promotes equality and protection of human rights. Pride Month is a celebration of people coming together to show how far those rights have come -- and how in some places there's still work to be done.

The fact is, LGBTQI people in many places continue to live with unacceptable violence and discrimination. Those who seek to promote and protect the rights of LGBTQI people are also vulnerable to attack.

In many countries, access to LGBTQI-related information is still restricted and representation of LGBTQI issues is censored. Pride events themselves are banned by governments or violently disrupted by those motivated by hatred.

In the US, the number of bills targeting LGBTQI rights has skyrocketed in recent years. More than 320 anti-LGBTQI bills have been introduced in state legislatures in the first five months of this year, compared with just 41 for all of 2018, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Most of the bills target transgender youth, either by restricting their participation in school sports or limiting their access to certain gender-affirming medical care. That is unacceptable.

In Florida, a new "don't say gay" law limits classroom discussion of LGBTQI topics.

However, the fight isn't over. Progress has been made in countries like Thailand in terms of celebrations, legislation, and of course recognition, I would say. Earlier this month, Bangkok saw an explosion of glamour and glitter at the first Pride parade in almost 16 years.

And last Tuesday, the cabinet ratified draft legislation that would make Thailand the first Southeast Asian country to legalise same-sex unions.

The Civil Partnership Bill doesn't go as far as endorsing same-sex marriage, but it will enable couples to adopt children, jointly manage assets and have inheritance rights -- which are not part of current laws.

The bill will now go to Parliament for approval. If passed, it would make Thailand the second jurisdiction in Asia to allow same-sex unions, with Taiwan having legalised same-sex marriage in 2019. It comes six months after the Constitutional Court ruled that laws should be expanded to guarantee greater rights for LGBTQI individuals but stopped short of granting marriage equality.

Thailand also sees Pride Month an occasion to promote gender diversity and equality, something that is not only the role of the government. For the first time, 12 Swedish companies in Thailand -- among them ABB, AstraZeneca, Ikea, Electrolux and Volvo -- have pledged to offer their employees one-month paid paternity leave. They call it an important step to strengthen gender equality both at the workplace and at home by sharing responsibilities.

Sweden was the first country in the world to introduce parental leave for both mothers and fathers in 1974, and today parents are offered 480 days of parental leave. The Swedish Institute wants to highlight the effects that Sweden's policies have had on gender equality.

The e-commerce platform Lineman Wongnai, meanwhile, now offers a same-sex marriage benefit of 20,000 baht, supporting LGBTQI employees. The move is aimed at bringing together people of all ages and genders in line with the company's core value: "Respect Everyone".

The benefits provided to LGBTQI employees, including 20,000 baht to support same-sex marriage, are similar to what heterosexual married couples can obtain, simply by submitting photos from the wedding ceremony as proof.

The company also offers a 10-day leave for child adoption and 30-day surgery leave for trans people. Currently, around 10% of its employees are LGBTQI and many are in management positions.

By promoting gender diversity and equality, Lineman Wongnai aims to create an inclusive "gender neutral" workplace environment, said Anontawong Marukpitak, vice-president of people: "We aim to make Lineman Wongnai a safe place for everyone by providing a workplace environment where everyone can be themselves and express their full talent, creativity and potential."

Of course, Pride Month is an exciting time for the LGBTQI community. We should celebrate with pride but let's not forget the bigger meaning behind it.

Countries are stronger when all people, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or sex characteristics, are fully recognised as free and equal members of their society.

Nareerat Wiriyapong

Acting Asia Focus Editor

Acting Asia Focus Editor

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