Chen eyes abolishing death penalty, legalising gay marriage
September 8, 2003
TAIPEI — Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian said on Sunday he is considering abolishing the death penalty and legalizing marriage between homosexuals.
"We want to achieve our goal of building the country on the
basis of human rights, and the government is drafting the Human
Rights Basic Law," Chen said at a meeting celebrating Lawyers' Day.
"The Human Rights Consultative Committee under the Presidential
Office has a very advanced human rights basic law, which includes
replacing the death penalty with life sentences without parole, and
legalizing homosexual marriage," Chen said in his speech.
"I want to thank our lawyers for their effort and their valuable
suggestions ... and hope Taiwan can formulate a legal code that
meets international standards," he said.
Since becoming president in 2000, Chen - previously a lawyer
defending political dissidents during Taiwan's martial law years -
has vowed to improve his country's human rights record, and
appointed Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien to head the Human Rights
Consultative Committee under the Presidential Office.
But it is not clear when the Human Rights Basic Law will be
Taiwan gay rights activists welcomed Chen's support for
legalizing gay marriage, but said they hoped it is not an empty
"The government has announced its plan to legalize gay marriage
several times, but again we express support for President Chen and
hope the new law can be implemented soon," Chen Ping, secretary-
general of the Gender/Sexuality Association of Taiwan, told
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA.
Hsu You-sheng, a Taiwan writer, sexologist and gay rights
activist, also welcomed Chen's announcement.
"Homosexual couples fulfil all the duties of citizens but are
denied the rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples. This is unfair,"
he told dpa by phone.
"If Taiwan legalizes gay marriages, it will make Taiwan the most
open society in Asia, and that will be an indicator of the
improvement of human rights in Taiwan," he said.
Hsu, 42, married his American lover in 1993 in the first public
gay wedding in Taiwan. But because their union is not officially
recognized by Taiwan or the U.S., he must visit America on a
tourist or student visa to live for a few months with his partner.
His partner must also enter Taiwan as a tourist or English
teacher in order to be together.
Taiwan's constitution states marriage is between a man and a
woman, so the parliament would have to amend it if it wants to
launch the Human Rights Basic Law and legalize gay marriage.
In 2000, President Chen received two U.S. gay rights activists
attending the annual Taipei Gay Carnival, and told them homosexuals
must fight for their rights.
Taiwan has one gay bookstore, one gay publishing house and
dozens of gay rights organizations.
But Taiwan gays still complain about discrimination in schools
and jobs, and occasional police raids on gay bars and saunas. –Sapa-DPA
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