Civil Partnership Bill in Thailand: an update

Rajen RamiahMonday 4 July 2022

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Rajen Ramiah
Nishimura & Asahi, Bangkok

After some delays, there have been recent developments relating to the Civil Partnership Bill in Thailand. Earlier this month, after being vetted by the Council of State, the Thai Cabinet approved the Civil Partnership Bill (the ‘Bill’), which allows same-sex couples to register their partnership, as well as other further legal amendments.

This news is timed almost perfectly because Thailand celebrated its first Pride parade in Bangkok in early June, which is definitely something to celebrate. Moreover, we are now one step closer to the Bill eventually becoming law.

Since first being introduced in 2019, the Bill has gone through a rigorous parliamentary process, followed by a thorough study in order to justify its need and obtain public feedback. The Bill has also been rigorously scrutinised by both the private and public sectors, as well as by representatives of various religious bodies.

It is fantastic news for all involved that the Thailand has now passed said Bill because, despite the Thai community being very tolerant and accepting towards the LGBTI+ community in general, there has never existed any legal framework to support and protect the community. This is a particularly significant development in response to global changes, particularly gender equality and sexual diversity. These are now fundamental human rights that must be protected in line with international principles.

With the blessings of the Thai Cabinet, the Bill will now be presented to the House of Representatives, and subsequently voted upon. When the Bill becomes law, it will be binding upon – among others – inheritance, assets, heirship, surrogacy and child adoption.

The Bill is considered to be a true reflection of society and the current norm, not just on a local basis but also globally. The Bill defines civil partners as couples born of the same gender. Civil unions will be available to consenting same-sex couples who are at least 17 years old, as long as at least one of them is a Thai national. Civil partners will have the same legal rights as married people regarding personal and jointly held property, as well as the right to adopt children. When one partner dies, the other will have the same inheritance rights as conventional married couples under the Civil and Commercial Code, which also prohibits a man or a woman from getting married if he or she already has a civil partner. A man or a woman can face a divorce lawsuit if he or she treats someone else outside the civil partnership as a civil partner. Under the amendment, the right to receive a living allowance in the case of divorce is terminated if the party receiving such allowance remarries or registers a civil partnership.

This is certainly great news, especially as it comes during Pride month, a month in which we celebrate equality and acceptance; celebrate the work of LGBTI+ people; educate people on LGBTI+ history and raise awareness of issues affecting the LGBTI+ community.

We are not quite over the finish line yet, but this is definitely positive progress being made. It is hoped that when the Bill becomes law, it will further trigger other legislations to protect the community, such as on sex workers and transgender rights.

The passing of the Bill is a significant development in this region and an extremely encouraging sign, because Thailand is seen to be taking the lead within Asia regarding the development of legal framework for the LGBTI+ community. In Asia, many countries are dictated by culture and long-standing customs that are not easy to put aside or bypass. However, with Thailand paving the way through the Bill, hopefully this will encourage further developments in our neighbouring countries in support of the LGBTI+ community.