South Korea upholds military’s archaic anti-gay law
South Korea’s Constitutional Court has delivered a blow to the LGBTQ+ community, ruling to uphold an outdated and discriminatory article of their military law that punishes same-sex activity.
Under South Korea’s Military Criminal Act, article 92-6, members of the armed forces who engage in same-sex relationships with one another can face up to two years in prison.
Since 2002, the country’s Constitutional Court has considered challenges to this anti-LGBTQ+ provision – each time ruling to uphold it.
In the court’s 5-4 ruling on Thursday, it was ruled that same-sex relations could undermine discipline within South Korea’s military and negatively affect its combat capabilities, Reuters reports.
This ruling is particularly disappointing since, in South Korea, men are required to perform between 18 and 21 months of military service after they turn 18, regardless of their sexual orientation.
There had been hopes among advocate groups that this would be the year that the discriminatory article would be overturned.
That’s due to last year’s Supreme Court ruling which overturned the military court convictions of two men who had been sentenced to suspended prison terms after they engaged in a consensual same-sex relationship.
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The Supreme Court had ruled that upholding the anti-gay provision would jeopardise each man’s autonomy and dignity.
Unfortunately, the landmark ruling had no effect on the Constitutional Court’s decision last week.
Commenting on the ruling, Boram Jang, Amnesty International’s East Asia researcher, said in a statement: “This continued endorsement for the criminalization of consensual same-sex acts within the Korean military is a distressing setback in the decades-long struggle for equality in the country.”
Thursday’s ruling is also a knockback for wider LGBTQ+ rights in South Korea.
Anti-LGBTQ+ hate remains rampant in the country, one of the world’s largest economies, because of deeply entrenched social conservatism and entrenched gender norms.
LGBTQ+ people have few protected rights, and South Korea’s evangelical religious groups have huge sway over Seoul’s policy and have been particularly loud in spreading anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
Just earlier this year, police and government workers teamed up to shut down a South Korean Pride festival in the city of Daegu.
There’s no national law protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Queer students face discrimination, bullying and harassment in South Korean schools.
Meanwhile, same-sex marriage and civil unions remain illegal, and queer couples are prevented from jointly adopting.
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