Legal Reforms in Thailand: A Push for Gender Choice, Same-Sex Marriage, and Legalized Prostitution
Believe it or not, prostitution has been a prosecutable offense in Thailand since 1960, carrying potential prison terms of up to 20 years. Estimates suggest that there are between 100,000 and 400,000 sex workers within the country. In response to the challenges faced by this demographic, various organizations and activist groups have emerged to advocate for their rights.
Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has committed to advocating for the ratification of three significant legal reforms next year, aimed at legalizing gender choice, same-sex marriage, and prostitution. Although the preceding administration under General Prayut had in principle approved these reforms, progress stalled due to committee delays and the lead-up to the 2023 general election.
The proposed reform for same-sex marriage would amend Section 1448 of the civil and criminal codes, allowing marriage for same-sex couples in Thailand. This change suggests that same-sex partners would be granted all the legal rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, including those related to pensions and adoption. However, there are still questions regarding the rights of same-sex marriages involving Thai nationals and foreigners.
For the first time since the 1960s, adult prostitution is on the brink of legalization, meaning sex workers, regardless of gender, would be recognized as professionals with the same rights and responsibilities as other legally employed Thai citizens. The impact of this change on go-go bars and other nighttime entertainment venues remains to be clarified.
The third legislative initiative focuses on gender identity, mandating that official documentation, such as passports and ID cards, reflect an individual’s gender identity, whether they identify as male, female, or otherwise.
The Prime Minister has expressed his intention to push for the simultaneous passage of all three reforms under a single legislative category. Support from major political parties, Move Forward and Pheu Thai, suggests that these issues will likely be successfully passed in parliament. Once enacted, these laws would establish Thailand as having one of the most progressive legal systems in Asia regarding these matters.
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