International News

Japanese same-sex couples sue for equal marital rights

Thirteen same-sex couples on Feb. 14 in Japan filed the first lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the country’s rejection of same-sex marriage.

The Valentine’s Day lawsuits, filed in Tokyo and in other courts around the country, argue that the law violates the constitutional rights to equality for same-sex couples. The couples want the government to follow the example of many other nations in guaranteeing marital freedom.

Ten Japanese municipalities have enacted “partnership” ordinances for same-sex couples to make it easier for them to rent apartments together, among other things, but they are not legally binding.

Many LGBT people hide their sexuality, fearing prejudice at home, school or work.

The obstacles are worse for transgender people, who face extra difficulties including a requirement they be sterilized to marry someone of the same birth sex. 

Thai party fields transgender candidate for prime minister

As Pinit Ngarmpring, he was a CEO and sports promoter, well known in the world of Thai soccer. Now, under her new name of Pauline Ngarmpring, she is pursuing a bid to become the country’s first transgender prime minister.

The 52-year-old is one of three candidates put forward by a political party for the post in next month’s general election.

She says she wants her nomination to bring hope to the marginalized, and to open up political space for future generations of LGBT people.

With more than a month to go before the March 24 polling day, she campaigned recently in one of Bangkok’s more infamous nightlife areas.

Many vulnerable or exploited people work in this twilight zone of go-go bars, cheap hotels and massage parlors. It’s exactly the constituency the Mahachon Party seeks to represent, and she’s eager to hear their concerns.

“Our welfare, mostly. Health,” masseuse Wassana Sorsawang said are her concerns, as she stood outside a shop in an alley off the street. She complained that she and her colleagues often work double shifts, and it affects their health.

The Mahachon Party is contesting about 200 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. About 20 of the candidates are openly LGBT. Ngarmpring joined only last November. Now, as their second-ranked nominee for prime minister, she finds herself a political trailblazer, a unique symbol of the fight for equality.

It’s fine, she said, even if she cannot achieve her goal of becoming prime minister “because I am the first one who dares enough to announce, ‘Hey, we can do it!’”

Instagram removes gay Muslim comics after Indonesia warning

Instagram has removed an account that published comic strips depicting the struggles of gay Muslims in Indonesia following a frenzy of moral outrage online in the world’s biggest Muslim nation.

The Ministry of Communications on Feb. 13 said the account under the username Alpatuni was pornographic, which violated the law on information and electronic transactions.

It was closed after the communications minister wrote a warning letter to Instagram, the ministry said.

The comics depicted gay characters facing discrimination and abuse, which has become increasingly common in Indonesia since late 2015 when conservative politicians and religious leaders began a campaign of portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people as a threat to the nation.

An account of the same name on Facebook, which owns Instagram, was also no longer accessible.

The ministry said it appreciated that members of the community reported the account, which “accelerated” its removal.

Indonesian netizens in turn congratulated the ministry. On Twitter, Fahmi Alfansi Pane, a policy analyst at the Indonesian parliament, thanked officials for “acting decisively” to protect public morality, adding that he had never seen the comics.

Local media, quoting the communications minister, reported the ministry would block Instagram in Indonesia if the Alpatuni account wasn’t removed.

The government frequently threatens to block Western social media and Internet companies for content deemed illegal, but has never taken such measures.

In 2017, it briefly and partially blocked the Telegram messaging app because of its failure to remove groups linked to violent jihad. 


— Compiled by Larry Nichols