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LGBTQ+ Treatment in Asian Countries

By: Chau Tang

Same sex marriage became legal on June 26th, 2015. Happiness erupted from the LGBTQ+ community because that meant they could finally marry the one they truly love. Of course, happiness wasn’t the only thing they felt. There have been a lot of people in the U.S. that scolded or have hatred towards the community. According to FBI data, the number of crimes based on sexual orientation has rose from 2014 to 2017 and 1,130 incidents were reported.

In the U.S, there are 28 states where they don’t protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination such as Alaska, Alabama, Ohio and Nebraska. There are 20 states where there are full protection from discrimination such as California, Colorado, Maine and Nevada.

In society, people are always in disagreement and they voice it proudly. Even if someone used a slur towards them or the community. In the U.S, there are a mix of conservatives and liberals.

In politics, the conservatives will put a stand against the LGBTQ+ community to make sure their rights are being minimized whereas liberals will make sure the community has every right and to make sure they are being protected.
It may seem like in the U.S, if people are against the community, they’ll use slurs, hate crimes or even violence but it is not illegal to be LBGTQ+.

In some Asian countries such as China, same-sex sexual activity is legal whereas countries such as India, is not legal. In some Asian countries, the LGBTQ+ community can be punished for their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is a federation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander.”

South Korea does not allow discrimination based on sex, religion, or social status and the Ministry of Justice has said it also applied to LGBTQ+ individuals. The protections will act as “rights” but these are not enforced. Even though South Korea has “protections” towards the community, marriage is not an option for LGBTQ+ individuals in South Korea.

According to Equaldex, only 15.85% of Koreans would feel comfortable with a homosexual individual in their family. 39.27% of Koreans would feel comfortable with being friends with a homosexual individual. 45.12% of Koreans would feel fine working with a homosexual individual and 10.15% know an LGBTQ+ individual. 58% of Koreans oppose same sex marriage while 38% support it.

Even though Korea has these “protections,” a lot of Koreans can be discriminatory towards the LGBTQ+ community. They believe being LGBTQ+ is a mental illness and powerful conservative churches believe homosexuality is a sin.

There was an article from BBC, Gay in South Korea: ‘She said I don’t need a son like you.’ Kim Wook-Suk (not his real name) was 20 years old when he was outed by a drunk co-worker. “It felt like the sky was falling down.” said Kim. “I was so shocked and scared. No one expected it.”

Kim was fired immediately. The restaurant owner, who was a Christian Protestant made him leave. “He said homosexuality is a sin and it was the cause of Aids. He told me that he didn’t want me to spread homosexuality to the other workers,” says Kim.
Kim feared the reaction from his mother the most. The restaurant owner’s son told his mother that her son was gay. The mother kicked him out and said “I don’t need a son like you.”

Like other LGBTQ+ teens in South Korea, they have spent years trying to hide their sexuality. Kim was taught that if you’re gay, you would burn in hell. Kim listened in church with fear because they kept saying homosexuality is a sin and it would bring diseases. Even though Kim was fired and homeless, he still believes South Korea could change. He believes that one day, the LGBTQ+ community can come out safely with an anti-discrimination law.

“A National Human Rights Commission of Korea found that 92% of LGBTQ+ people were worried about being the target of a hate crime.”

North Korea is against activities that are against the socialist agenda and same sex activities are “de facto prohibited.” Even though it’s not illegal to be gay in North Korea, the country denies of the existence of homosexuality.

In 2011, North Korea executed two lesbians because the country thought they were bringing corruption to the public’s morals. With stories like this, a lot of LGBTQ+ Asian individuals may fear coming out.

In China, there are no laws protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination and same sex marriage is illegal. Homosexual acts have been decriminalized as of 1977 but Chinese laws still haven’t recognized or protect same-sex marriage.

Japan does not acknowledge same sex marriage. Transgender individuals are able to request a gender change in the state family registry under certain circumstances. In the article, Japanese MP Floats Idea of Revising Constitution to Allow Gay Marriage, written by Reuters, has stated, “The constitution did not envision same-sex marriage when it was written…but it was not prohibited,” said Gon Matsunaka, head of Pride House Consortium, which promotes LGBTQ awareness.

Malaysia has a penal code that criminalizes anal and oral sex.The punishment can be up to 20 years. Some states in Malaysia have the Sharia Law. They can punish same-sex intercourse with lashings. They do not allow gay individuals to serve in the military.

In the article, Gays? No Such Thing In Our Country, Says Malaysian Tourism Minister, written from Straitstimes. Malaysian Tourism Minister, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi does not recognize the LGBTQ+ in the country. He was also asked if homosexuals and jew tourists would feel safe in Malaysia. An aide to the minister had said, “Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or color.”

Last September, Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad said, “In Malaysian, there are some things we cannot accept, even though it is seen as human rights in Western countries.” He had said, “We cannot accept LGBT, marriage between two men and women and women.”

They cannot accept the LGBTQ+ so much that Islamic affairs minister, Mujahid Yusof Rawa, wants pictures of LGBTQ+ activists to be removed from a public exhibition.

I wanted to know more about an LGBTQ+ individual living in Malaysia so I asked Rachael about her experience. She lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and she is Malaysian Chinese.

Rachel identifies as a bisexual cisgender woman: she is 90% attracted to females while occasionally attracted to men. She does not have a coming out story because she is still in the closet due to work and family environments. Rachel works in a government sector so there are rules and potential “morality clauses” that could cause her to lose her job. She does plan to tell her family about her sexuality in her thirties and she hopes to have a stable partner and settle down by then.

Like most LGBTQ+ individuals, she is living a double life in regards to her love life. She comes from a traditional and conservative family. The family members are argumentative and put down her point of views such as calling her abnormal because of her views.

Her friends in high school were supportive but friends in her conservative Christian college during her A-Levels studies shunned her for a whole semester when she first came out. “When they accepted me back, I faced censorship or correction by them whenever I mentioned a female partner or described her with a female pronoun.” She said. “I seemed to be able to remain in the group under the condition that I feign heterosexuality.”

She had Malaysian and Singaporean friends she came out to but they displayed homophobia by decreasing interactions with her and one of them even called her, “disgusting” behind her back. With those experiences, she felt like she felt safer in the closet. She has accepted that her sexuality is apart of her and she doesn’t have to come out to anyone she doesn’t feel comfortable with.

“The lack of LGBT visibility in our country and a fear of the unknown, complicated by religious fundamentalism and persecution upon those who challenge it have led to generally poor awareness and ignorance regarding the human biological variation of being born as an LGBT individual and the basic rights that we deserve.” She said. “There’s constant censorship or ban on LGBTQ+ movies. Politicians are also using anti-LGBTQ+ rhetorics to gain support of conservative voters.”

In Malaysia, it’s hard for Rachael to come out, especially because LGBTQ+ face threats by enforcement or anti-LGBTQ+ Shariah laws. “I believe that the queer Muslim population in our country is far more vulnerable to actual persecution by the religious bodies who will not hesitate to enforce the anti-LGBT Islamic Shariah laws upon them.” She said, “there was a high profile case in 2018 whereby a Muslim lesbian couple caught in a car tryst in the state of Terengganu were caned six times each in front of 100 witnesses in a public courtroom for the purported crime of “attempting same-sex relation.”

In these Asian countries, being LGBTQ+ is punishable yet in Western countries, it is not. For that reason, LGBTQ+ individuals, especially in Malaysia do wish to flee so they could be comfortable with who they are.

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