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Thailand: Ensure Equal Access To Marriage And Other Rights To LGBTI+ Persons

Thailand’s House of Representatives to commence final reading of draft legislation to amend the Civil and Commercial Code

(BANGKOK, March 26, 2024)—The Thai parliament should ensure the draft Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, commonly known as the marriage equality bill, provides equal access to the right to marriage and extends all rights and protections contained in the Civil and Commercial Code to LGBTI+ persons, Fortify Rights said today. On March 27, the lower house of parliament is scheduled to initiate a final reading and debate of provisions within the marriage equality bill.

“Thailand is close to becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to ensure marriage rights for LGBTI+ couples, which is a cause for celebration; however, certain shortcomings in the current draft must be addressed to ensure all rights extend to LGBTI+ persons,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, Human Rights Associate at Fortify Rights. “Before the final reading of the bill by the lower house, it is imperative that parliamentarians eliminate the presence of gendered language in the current draft that may limit rights for LGBTI+ persons, particularly rights for LGBTI+ couples with children.”

Ahead of the final reading of the bill on March 27, the lower house will consider whether to include the more inclusive and gender-neutral language of “parent” in addition to the terms “mother” and “father,” which exist in multiple provisions of the Civil and Commercial Code. The committee responsible for developing the bill failed to incorporate such changes in the latest draft, leading to “reservations of opinions” by committee members representing civil society organizations.

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Under Rule 131 of the Rules of Procedure of the House of Representatives B.E. 2562, committee members who have expressed reservations are “entitled to conduct a debate unless a contrary decision is made by the assembly.”

Speaking about the reasons why it is necessary to include the terminology of “parents” in the bill, co-founder of the organization Intersex Thailand Natakamon Siwasilp said during an event held at The Fort on February 12, 2024: “This is to protect LGBTI+ families with children by ensuring they are regarded as equally as a hetero family.”

In addition to failing to address potential complications for LGBTI+ couples with children, the latest draft retains other gendered language in the existing Civil and Commercial Code that could impact rights and protections for LGBTI+ persons. For example, the draft refers to “women” instead of “women and people who can get pregnant” in the section regarding the rights to conceive and have a child. The latter would be inclusive of people who can get pregnant but whom do not identify as women, such as transgender men. In addition, the draft fails to consider other forms of sexual violence apart from penetration in the section on sexual offenses between engaged partners.

Although these shortcomings should be addressed to prevent a discriminatory application of the Civil and Commercial Code, other amendments in the draft bill are expected to bring the Code further in line with international standards. Importantly, the latest draft of the marriage equality bill replaces the terms “husband” and “wife” with the term “spouse” in Section 1448 of the Code. This, in principle, should provide LGBTI+ couples with equal access to the right to marriage, welfare, child adoption, healthcare consent, property co-management, inheritance, and access to spousal benefits of tax deductions and government pensions. The latest draft also includes a provision to ensure LGBTI+ couples who marry are guaranteed all affiliated spousal rights, and all regulations must be brought in line with the amendments to the Civil and Commercial Code. Moreover, the latest draft addresses early marriage by increasing the minimum age to marry to 18 years old. The current minimum age requirement to marry is 17-years old under the existing Code, which is not in line with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Fortify Rights served as an advisor to the Parliamentary Committee to Scrutinize the Act for Amendment to the Civil and Commercial Code, which was responsible for developing the latest draft bill based on four bills submitted to parliament by the government, the Move Forward Party, the Democrat Party, and the Thai civil society-led Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality. All bills passed the first readings in parliament by a vote of 369 to 10 on December 21, 2023. The committee completed its work after making revisions and submitting the latest draft to the full parliament for consecutive second and third readings of the bill.

For the marriage equality bill to become law, it must pass three readings in the House of Representatives as well as three readings in the Senate before it is submitted to the Prime Minister, who will request royal assent from the King. The bill will then be published in the Royal Gazette and become law after a period of 60 days.

Articles 23 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) guarantee the right to family and marriage without discrimination. The principle of non-discrimination is also considered a fundamental right under customary international law binding on all states. Section 27 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand similarly prohibits all forms of discrimination.

“While the Thai parliament should urgently pass the marriage equality bill into law, it is crucial to ensure in the bill that LGBTI+ persons are guaranteed all rights and protections without discrimination,” said Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn. “This bill presents an opportunity for Thailand to eliminate laws that discriminate against LGBTI+ persons once and for all.”

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