Thai LGBTI people face stigma and limited job opportunities despite high visibility in a generally tolerant society, according to a new report.
The report, conducted by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), found that while the tourism authority actively promotes Thailand as a gay-friendly destination, acceptance of LGBTI people in society is still low. Luc Stevens, UN resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative for Thailand, said, ‘Thailand is one of the few countries in the Asia-Pacific region where the LGBT community has high visibility. But visibility does not always translate to equality.’
According to the report, there is limited education about LGBTI issues in schools and anti-gay bullying is very common. There is strong pressure to be a ‘good citizen’ and put family concerns or interests first, compounded by the notion that one’s sexuality or gender must not go against accepted norms or bring shame to oneself or one’s family.
The report also highlighted that transgender people cannot change their gender on identity papers, and transgender women are often forced into military service. LGBTI people face workplace discrimination, including being denied promotions or fired from their jobs after disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender people are often limited in their employment options.
While the country’s constitution prohibits discrimination against citizens on any grounds, there are no laws that recognize LGBTI relationships, parenthood or marriage.
Natee Teerarojjanapong, president of the Gay Political Group of Thailand, told the Bangkok Post that the report was one-sided. He said, ’You can see a number of gays or lesbians in Thailand these days and they are not unusual or stand-out groups in society as they were before. You can also watch gay and lesbian characters on TV, which which means they are accepted. There is no discrimination here.’
Still so much progress to make.