“Taiwan serves as a model because it has already enacted legislation that protects sexual minorities against discrimination in employment and education,” said Professor Holning Lau of the University of North Carolina’s school of law during a recent Hong Kong symposium on sexual minorities’ rights, according to scmp.com.
Hong Kong should also take note of what the Japanese government undertook after it came under pressure from its courts said Professor Stephen Whittle, a British activist who teaches law at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“The courts supported the arguments for [transgender] people’s rights and told the government very clearly that change was needed,” he said, according to scmp.com.
Hong Kong’s transgender community needed to begin a “reasonable conversation” with their law and policy makers about having their rights recognized, he said.
The two activists were attending Hong Kong’s first international symposium on LGBTI rights that began Aug 28 at the Chinese University and jointly organized by the Equal Opportunities Commission, the European Union’s local office and the university’s gender research centre.
The two-day event was titled ‘Working Together for an Inclusive Society: LGBTI Rights in Comparative Perspective’ and aimed to provide a platform to examine the rights of LGBTI community members in Hong Kong.
Boris Dittrich, a Dutch human rights activist, said Asia was “very slow” on the issue of same-sex equality and the need for anti-discrimination laws when compared to even Latin America.
Same-sex marriages and civil partnerships are illegal in socially conservative Hong Kong, where same-sex relations was only decriminalized in 1991. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is not banned in Hong Kong and much of society remains opposed to equal laws for same-sex couples.
Gay rights activists in Hong Kong have scheduled to take up the issue of anti-discrimination rights of the LGBTI community with the legislative council for discussion next June.
Taiwan, is one of Asia’s more liberal societies where same-sex relations is legal, although legislation to legalize marriage among same-sex couples that was proposed in 2003 received opposition and was not voted on.
In Japan, same-sex relations were legalized way back in 1880 and Japanese culture does not have a history of hostility toward LGBT people although social discrimination does occur.