Law to let Thais choose their sexual identity gains traction

Law to let Thais choose their sexual identity gains traction

A transexual joins a military conscription queue in Bangkok. While transexuals are not taken in the military draft, humiliating scenes like this can be eliminated by a simple law allowing change of gender on national ID cards. (Bangkok Post file photo by Kosol Nakachol)
A transexual joins a military conscription queue in Bangkok. While transexuals are not taken in the military draft, humiliating scenes like this can be eliminated by a simple law allowing change of gender on national ID cards. (Bangkok Post file photo by Kosol Nakachol)

A proposed law change allowing gender certification will increase legal support for the LGBT community in Thailand, says Matalak Orungrote, an associate professor at the Faculty of Law, Thammasat University.

This would allow Thai citizens to choose their gender, affecting their legal obligations, such as conscription, based on the gender they choose to identify with, she said.

The law change was suggested by a joint research programme between Thammasat University's Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Social Administration.

The programme has studied issues relating to sexual orientation from 14 countries, including the US, UK and France.

Ms Matalak said this research would improve the overall quality of the proposed Gender Certification Act, minimising loopholes and the risk of unequal treatment.

The act was discussed at a seminar on Tuesday and will require cooperation from several organisations, she said, adding the change has so far failed to gain their support.

The Thai Gender Equality Act 2015 is not a one-stop solution to provide equal rights for the LGBT community, Ms Matalak said.

"The current act is not a magic potion that will cure everything," she said. "But if we make a law that will certify a person's gender, it would support many pre-existing laws."

She said Thailand has "too many acts", and the Gender Certification Act would make it less necessary to amend a number of them to grant LGBTs more rights in the future.

"If we have to persist in filing complaints about gender titles, and keep trying to change current acts, we'll have to try many other laws as well," she said.

Ms Matalak said many LGBTs have limited knowledge about the Gender Equality Act. Often, they don't know who to file complaints with when they face discrimination, she said.

The equality act says individuals who are subject to discrimination or abuse related to their gender may file a formal complaint to the Committee on Consideration of Unfair Gender Discrimination, headed by a chairman and featuring 10 committee members at most.

However, Ms Matalak said the act's legal processes need to be improved.

"The committee has limitations," she said. "They must be able to connect discrimination cases to hate crimes, which have more severe penalties compared to regular crimes."

She added that many of the cases examined by the committee may be treated as too general, slowing legal processes for the LGBT community.

Also speaking at the seminar was television personality and scholar Viroj Tangvarnich, who supported the proposed new act.

Mr Viroj, who is part of the LGBT community, said many Thais do not understand LGBTs and rely on social stereotypes to define them.

"People think this is a choice, but I didn't choose to be this way. I was born like it."


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