Taiwan gays demand action not words from politicians

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This weekend, Taiwan will see its eighth annual gay carnival and fourth annual pride parade, the biggest events of this kind in Asia.

After the government-funded carnival a procession, expected to be 10,000 strong, will march through the capital, Taipei.

Gay activism in Taiwan has grown stronger in past years, with politicians courting the pink vote, especially in the run up to the legislative elections at the end of the year and the presidential elections next March.

But these politicians, don’t always back up their promises for greater tolerance through legislation after they are elected, according to the president of the Taiwan Tongzhi (a Chinese euphemism for gay) Hotline Association.

“Some candidates who have shown support for gay, bisexual and transgender groups during their campaigns never did anything after being elected.

“Some did push for new legislation or amendments, but in the end they were stuck because of opposition from conservative legislators,” he said.

It’s become common for politicians to speak at Taipei pride – last year’s parade saw the then Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, the Kuomintang presidential candidate for 2008, described homosexuality as a “natural phenomenon” and a part of “human rights.”

The current president Chen Shui-bian has proclaimed his support for gay rights in the past, including the right to marry and to adopt children.

However, these grand words are very seldom followed by action in parliament, which is also conspicuous for its lack of publicly gay members.

The gay scene in Taiwan has blossomed since the first pride parade in 2003, which attracted only 1000 marchers, with gay cafes and bookshops opening on the streets.

But while tolerance has grown, equality laws still lag behind, especially regarding the right to marry.