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Conservative societies have a problem. They don’t like change. Whether it is due to social, cultural or religious causes, conservatives prefer to stick to old values. And they tend to resist drastic changes, especially if it is about giving the rights to the gay community.

This past Friday, Taiwan’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage, which is obviously hailed by the LGBT community of the island country which has become Asia’s first country to legalize such act in the continent which is largely conservative. The President has yet to sign, and she is expected to do so as she has been campaigning for gay rights. Not only the President, but her ruling Democratic Progressive Party has been supporting the stance since long.

The Constitutional Court, the top court of the country, had paved the way for this landmark legislation in 2017 when it stated that the existing law of the land, prescribing the same-sex marriage as a violation of the “people’s right to equality”. Setting the two-year deadline ending by May 24, 2019, the Court guided the government either to amend the law or to face the embarrassment of seeing this taking into effect automatically.

But this is one aspect of the matter, while the other which is no less important is regarding the society in which such laws are taking place. Despite the landmark legislation, the country is deeply divided over the issue as the November 2018 Referendum suggests in which 67 percent had voted to reject same-sex marriage. The compliance with the Court’s ruling a week before ending the two year deadline indicates the reluctance of the parliament. However, as soon as the legislation was passed by the parliament, the President Tsai Ing-Wen tweeted,

“We took a big step towards the equality, and made Taiwan a better country.”

 

But the legislation of same-sex marriage is not an overnight affair. It was the culmination of the decades-long struggle of the gay rights’ activist Chi Chia-Wei. In 2015, he moved to the Constitutional Court against the country’s civil code that stated that the “marriage is between a man and a woman”. In 2017, the Court ruled against the existing law stating that it violates the Constitution of the country. This animated the Conservative groups too who took this as an opportunity to call for a referendum over the issue in November 2018 and the results reflected the contradictory trends between the Court ruling and the people’s will, that was against giving the legal rights to gays.

This is the dilemma of the conservative societies that the people have to look towards the courts for their rights instead of the parliament where politicians are reluctant, usually due to political expediency, to take such drastic steps as allowing the gay rights.

In September 2018, India also saw progress towards the LGBT community when its Supreme Court decriminalized the adult gay sex, adding that the sexual orientation is a natural phenomenon beyond human control and also adding that it (the verdict) is the ‘requirement of changing times’.

What society thinks, a judge said, referring to the conservative majority of Indian society, has no say when it comes to individual freedom. Justice Malhotra said,

“Society owes an apology to the LGBTQ community.”