Taipei, Thousands of people gathered in Taipei on Saturday for Taiwan's annual gay pride parade -- Asia's biggest -- to demand equal rights to marriage for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people as well as diversity-oriented, inclusive gender equality education, two issues to be voted on for the first time in an upcoming referendum election.
Among the groups are diplomatic corps representing 17 foreign missions in Taiwan, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the European Economic and Trade Office.
As with previous years, members of the international LGBTI community have flocked to Taiwan specifically to participate in the parade.
To drum up "yes" votes for the two questions proposed by gay rights advocates in the referendum scheduled for Nov. 24 alongside the local government elections, the parade this year is themed "Tell Your Story, Vote for Equality."Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office where the huge crowd congregated around noon was awash in a sea of rainbow ribbons and flags and participants dressed in flamboyant costumes ready for the march that will begin at 2:30 p.m. after a program of speeches and performances.
Participants are divided into nine groups which will traverse three routes simultaneously in downtown Taipei before they converge on Ketagalan Boulevard in the evening, as the event, now in its 16th year, has grown to be the largest in Asia.
One question asks if people agree that the marriage regulations in the Civil Code should be used to guarantee the rights of same-sex couples to get married.
The other proposal asks if people agree that the Gender Equity Education Act should stipulate that gender equality education covering courses on inclusive sexuality education be included in the nation's 12-year basic education curriculum.
LGBTI advocates initially did not initiate the petitions because they believe LGBIT rights are human rights that should not be subject to a popular vote, but they were forced to do so to counter the three referendum proposals submitted by anti-gay marriage groups.
Since two amendments to the Civil Code introduced to legalize same-sex marriage cleared a legislative committee in December 2016, anti-gay marriage groups have sought to put the issue to a referendum, in a bid to thwart passage of the bills.
The three proposals will also be voted on in the referendum.
The first asks if people agree that marriage should be restricted to being between a man and a woman as described under the Civil Code.
The second asks if the protection of rights of same-sex couples should be provided for in ways other than those stated in the marriage regulations in the Civil Code.
The third question asks if people agree that homosexual education should not be taught to students in elementary and junior high schools as currently stipulated under the enforcement rules of the Gender Equity Education Act.
Taiwan's constitutional court in May 2017 struck down the definition of marriage in the Civil Code and ordered that the law be amended within two years. Despite the landmark ruling, the process of legalizing same-sex marriage has remained stalled.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel