taiwan's referendum teaser
taiwan's referendum teaser

Taiwan NGOs Condemn Referendum, Blame Religious Groups and ‘Incompetent’ Government

Those supportive of worldwide LGBTQ rights were saddened to hear the results of Taiwan’s referendum Saturday, which saw a majority of Taiwanese voters choose to define marriage as between a man and woman and to prevent LGBTQ issues from being taught in schools.

Despite the island nation‘s high court in May 2017 giving parliament a two-year deadline to either amend the current law or to pass a new law enacting gay marriage, it’s currently unclear how the results of Taiwan’s referendum will affect that process.

Now Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan and Gender Equity Education Coalition, two NGOs instrumental in fighting for LGBTQ rights locally, have released a joint statement condemning Taiwan’s referendum, placing blame on both local (and foreign) religious groups and the local government itself, which they deem to be “incompetent.”

They call Taiwan’s referendum “a game of money, power and politics.”

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Below is the full joint statement released Saturday night following the disappointing results of Taiwan’s referendum, signed by local activists Jennifer Lu, Chief Coordinator of Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan; Cindy Su, Secretary General of the Lobby Alliance for LGBT Human Rights; Jay Lin, Founder of GagaOOlala; Woody Wang, Chairperson of Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy; Chao-Yuan Tseng, Senior Researcher of Awakening Foundation; Olivia Tsai, Secretary General of Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association; Ming-Hsu Chang, Manager of Gender Equity Education Coalition; and Chia-Wei Chi, LGBTQ+ Pioneer Activist.

Here is the joint statement that followed Taiwan’s referendum results, translated into English:

In the past few months of referendum campaign, local and overseas conservative religious groups from poured enormous resources into the dissemination of misinformation and smear messages against marriage equality and gender equity education on newspapers, TVs, radio stations, and social networks. Baseless claims of enhanced stigmatization, discrimination, fear are everywhere. For example, Taiwan will become an island of AIDS if granted the right to marry. Or LGBTQ+ leads to low birth rate and LGBTQ+ education teaches sexual promiscuity. The false news is so rampant that La France à Taiwan and Belgian Office Taipei both released clarification statements. On the contrary, when Taiwan government attempted to counter misinformation later, it was already too late. Our first referendum was held under such climate and many frightened and manipulated citizens casted their votes. We are deeply sorry that the seemingly democratic process turned out to be a game of money, power and politics.

As the government sat by and watched the dissemination of misinformation, LGBTQ+ groups and civic organizations fought an uphill battle that was unfairly manipulated by money, power and politics. With limited resources, we initiated numerous conversations and actions. Especially these few weeks before the election, numerous volunteers walked the streets every day to have dialogues with the public who lacked understanding of the issue. However, on the election day, there were reports of referendum-act-breaching misconducts across the island. In some places, supporters of anti-LGBTQ+ alliance blatantly disseminated their propaganda materials. Some voting stations only gave voters ballots of certain referendum questions. Against our wish that the very first year of a liberated referendum closed with illegal misconducts throughout the voting process. It is the incompetence of the government that caused a battle of illegal and unconstitutional referendum campaign with gender equity as the guinea pig. For this to happen to the democracy of Taiwan in the 21st Century, this certainly is a big blow to our democratic values.

We have to state clearly that, even though the tenth referendum question seems to meet the threshold in The Referendum Act, Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation insists in its press conference beforehand and its litigation in Administrative Court that the question is about refusing marriage equality in essence. The intention has violated Interpretation No. 748 in the Supreme Court that administrative and legislative authorities have to protect freedom of marriage equality on the constitutional level, and their protections shall not violate “equal protections of marriage freedom”.

As fake news and asymmetric resource gaps plummet democracy in Taiwan, we reiterate that LGBTQ+ community is a part of Taiwanese society, and it deserves full respect. National policies shall not systematically harm any families. During the previous presidential campaign, the governing party made the manifesto to “support marriage equality”. After election, however, it starts to swing and hesitate under pressure, and doesn’t clarify misunderstandings or questions among some parents on marriage equality education. On other complicated policies with progressive values, such as green energy transformation, it doesn’t respond proactively. Overwhelming fake news from conservatives locally and internationally have cretmated insurmountable damages to democracy and human rights in Taiwan.

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At the Saturday press conference, LGBTQ equality pioneer Chia-Wei Chi continued to encourage Taiwan’s local queer community. “Vote counts today are still inspiring to me,” he said (again, translated from Chinese). “In the past, LGBTQ movement and political mobilization was unimaginable. Today, however, more than 2 million voters, including many heterosexuals, really understand and respect LGBTQ communities. As we continue, more people will support us. The anti-LGBTQ group spends over NT$1 billion for 5 million votes, while we fight with our limited resources. In historical trajectory, we will eventually win. We urge the administration not to execute this referendum result. Taiwanese society should continue to progress.”

What are your thoughts on the results of Taiwan’s referendum?