IAFL APPLAUDS RECOGNITION OF LGBT RIGHTS IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION
Vanessa Mathews is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (IAFL).
Vanessa joins with the IAFL in welcoming the following four major developments in recognition of
LGBT rights in the Asia Pacific region, as summarised by the IAFL:
‘In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India unanimously ruled to decriminalise
homosexual sex in a landmark judgment for gay rights in that country, the world’s most
populous democracy. The Indian Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a 160-yearold law banning homosexual activity, stating that the provision of the criminal code amounted to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and was illegal.
In December 2018, in a landmark decision, the Singapore High Court allowed the
adoption of a child of a gay male couple born with a surrogate by the child’s own
biological gay parent on the basis of the need to promote the welfare of the child and
regard it as paramount despite other public policy.
On 17 May 2019 Taiwan’s parliament became the first in Asia to legalise same-sex
marriage, after the Taiwanese Constitutional Court in 2017 ruled that the constitutional
right to equality and freedom of marriage guaranteed same-sex couples the right to
marry under the Taiwanese constitution.
Most recently on 6 June 2019, the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal unanimously
granted a same sex-couple who had validly married in New Zealand, the same right to
employment and tax benefits that an opposite-sex married couple has under Hong
Kong law. The Court held that it is circular logic to justify the restriction of these
benefits to opposite-sex married couples simply because heterosexual marriage is the
only form of marriage recognised in Hong Kong law. It uses the fact that the couple has
a different sexual orientation from others as the very justification to deny them equality,
despite their analogous position.
The IAFL is an international organisation of over 820 practising lawyers from 58
countries who are recognised by their peers as the most experienced and skilled family
law specialists in their respective countries. The IAFL reaffirms our support of efforts
towards ensuring human dignity within all relationships, full equality of the LGBTI
community and in issues concerning marriage, families, parenting and ending domestic
violence throughout the world.
While these legal changes are all different in their reach, they will improve the rights of
LGBTI people in each of these jurisdictions. The IAFL especially welcomes these
measures in the Asia Pacific region, where issues of criminalisation of and discrimination
against LGBTI people continue to be of concern in some jurisdictions. We call on all
governments in our region to review their laws in relation to LGBTI people and their