Thailand introduces first law to protect LGBT people

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The country’s first law specifically protecting LGBT people came into effect this week.

Thai parliament passed the 2015 Gender Equality Act in March. The law is is designed to protect members of the LGBT community and aims to punish discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Those found guilty of discrimination may face up to six months in jail and a 20,000 baht fine.

The law defines “unfair discrimination among the sexes” as any action that “segregates, obstructs or limits the rights” of a person because they have “a sexual expression different from that person’s original sex.”

Somchai Charoenamnuaysuk –  Director-General of the Department of Family Affairs and Family Development – noted that the law bars government agencies, private organisations, or Thai individuals from formulating anti-gay policies, rules, regulations, measures, or operating procedures.

“Co-operation from all sectors is key in moving forward with the enforcement of this Act, in order to create an equal and just society,” he said.

Original exemptions due to education, religion and the public interest were removed from an earlier draft of the law – meaning that governing bodies are no longer exempt from being prosecuted for anti-LGBT legislation or behaviour.

He added that the support of non-LGBT people in Thailand is vital to the law’s success and that the public will play a “key role”.

“The public plays an important role in keeping a watchful eye on cases of discrimination, providing support to LGBT people, as well as ensuring compliance with the rules, regulations and measures.’

The Thai government are currently considering a civil unions bill and amendments to the constitution that would further recognise the rights of trans people in the country.

Thailand is famous for having a large and vibrant LGBT community, particularly trans and gender non-conforming people. It allows trans people to change their legal gender, but does not currently allow same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage was discussed in 2012, with legislation being drafted, but was put on hold as the country struggled with political instability.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Thailand’s new constitution will include references to a third gender for the first time.