Conservative Muslim groups in Thailand have opposed a new bill that aims to allow same-sex couples to register their unions officially and adopt children.
The newly drafted Marriage Equality Bill is seen as a watershed for members of Thailand's LGBTQ community. If passed by parliament, Thailand will become the first country in Southeast Asia to legalize same-sex unions.
"We fully oppose the Civil Partnership Bill," a group called Muslims for Peace wrote in a social media post on its Facebook page, calling on local Muslims to do likewise.
"We believe that it will cause inevitable damage to society," it added. "It will also cause national unrest [because newly granted privileges to LGBTQ people] will deepen inequality and injustice."
The post was later deleted in response to criticisms, but several Thai Muslims have spoken out against same-sex marriages, arguing that such unions violated Islam's tenets.
Although many of Thailand's 3 million Muslims, in a 69 million country, tend to be socially liberal, especially in Bangkok, a more conservative form of Islam dominates around the countryside.
In Thailand's three southernmost Muslim-majority provinces, where a separatist insurgency has claimed thousands of lives over the years, gays, lesbians and transgender people aren't at liberty to live openly, according to members of the local LGBTQ community.
"My mother accepts me the way I am, but my father has disowned me," said a transwoman who lives in Bangkok but comes from a prominent family in the Muslim-majority province of Narathiwat in southern Thailand, bordering Malaysia.
"In Bangkok, I can dress any way I want, but at home, I can't dress up as a woman because people might abuse me verbally or even attack me physically," she told a UCA News reporter.
Even in some more tolerant Muslim communities elsewhere in Thailand, many locals have adopted a live-and-let-live attitude towards members of the LGBTQ community yet they draw the line at marriage, according to some local Muslims.
"If there's a law that goes against Islamic teachings, we will oppose it," the Thai Muslim Student Association told a local online publication. "However, we will respect the law and will not do anything to violate or overturn it," the group added.
"Although the same-sex marriage bill contradicts with our faith, we respect different opinions and faiths since each party has different standards of morality," it said.
Ironically, the proposed bill has also drawn opposition from some members of Thailand's LGBTQ community who argue that it does not go far enough in guaranteeing equal rights.
Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, a transgender woman and a parliament member for an opposition party, has slammed the government's bill as divisive and unjust because it retains some legal distinctions between same-sex couples and male-female ones.
Support UCA News…
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5…