International: US President Barack Obama’s recent support for same-sex relations and marriage was met with a lukewarm response by people in Asia where gay rights and marriage for same sex couples are taboo and largely remain illegal.
“My Administration proudly stands alongside all those who fight for LGBT rights (and) taken action to prevent bullying and harassment, and prohibited discrimination in housing and hospitals, Obama said while promulgating June as LGBT Pride Month.
“My Administration is extending family and spousal benefits — from immigration benefits to military family benefits — to legally married same-sex couples,” he said in his May 30 official proclamation by “virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.”
But gay rights and marriage for same sex couples barely figure on mainstream political agendas in the Asia-Pacific region, where same-sex relations and largely remain illegal.
Even developed Australia passed a legal amendment in 2004 explicitly defining marriage as between a man and woman.
In the mainly Catholic Philippines, the only country in the world apart from the Vatican which still bans divorce, President Benigno Aquino’s government said cautiously that any change to the law would have to come from lawmakers.
Tthe Progressive Organisation of Gays in the Philippines has also said it was not pushing for same-sex marriage, while hoping that Obama’s advocacy would prompt Aquino to address other issues of concern.
“We are not asking for wedding bells soon, we are merely requesting the government to face up to the reports” of alleged discrimination against gays in the Philippines, the group’s spokesman Goya Candelario said.
Neither is the issue of marriage high on the agenda for gay men and lesbians in India, “because they know it will upset more people”, said Ashok Row Kavi, head of Humsafar Trust, a Mumbai-based group dealing with male sexual health.
“Already there is so much opposition, if they start talking about same-sex marriage, it will increase further. We can only fight this much at a time,” he said.
“I wish the Indian political class and state learn their lessons from Obama. Our traditional society is uncomfortable about these issues — they don’t know how it works.”
But there was a vitriolic response from Vinod Bansal, spokesman for India’s right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad group, who said gay marriage would “completely destroy our social fabric.”
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, Ibrahim Ali, a parliamentarian and president of right-wing Malay group Perkasa, said that Obama’s announcement would have no effect on public opinion.
But young Malaysians should nonetheless be educated against this “unnatural” lifestyle, which is against Islam, he said.
Same-sex relations is illegal and punishable with jail time in many parts of Asia which was largely part of the former British Empire and had the similar anti-gay colonial law.