Post submitted by Saurav Jung Thapa, former Associate Director, HRC Global   

Taiwan’s opposition leader Tsai Ing-wen of the liberal Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won the presidential election on January 16.

Tsai’s victory could make Taiwan - a nation of 23 million - the first Asian country to pass marriage equality.

Tsai publicly came out in support of marriage equality last October in a video she posted to her Facebook page during Taiwan Pride, the largest LGBT gathering in Asia’s history.  

Seventy-one percent of Taiwanese support marriage equality, but same-sex marriage legislation efforts since 2003 have floundered. The latest bill has remained stalled in parliament since 2013. The marriage equality bill could finally move ahead this year as the DPP won a majority of 68 out of 113 seats in Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan. It is the first time ever in seven decades that the ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT) has lost its legislative majority.

Another remarkable development in the elections was the candidacy for a parliamentary seat of Jennifer Lu, an openly lesbian social activist, in a district of the capital Taipei. Despite not winning a seat, Lu told HRC that she received the highest number of votes for any openly LGBT candidate in Taiwanese history. She intends to continue her political efforts in the future.

LGBT rights movements are gaining steam in Asia. Nepal promulgated an inclusive new Constitution last September that protects LGBT people. Marriage equality could be in the cards for the country when the civil code is revised. Thailand is considering a draft civil partnership registration bill that would include same-sex couples. Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party repealed a ban on same-sex marriage and considered legalizing marriage equality (before postponing the decision) in 2014.

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