Same-sex reproductive rights are as important as marriage rights

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“Our campaigns for gay reproductive rights are essential and will extend significantly beyond our borders”Chun Li (CC BY 2.0)

In May 2019, a Taiwanese gay couple — let’s call them Cheng and Shuo — walked proudly with the wave of celebrations in Taipei, Taiwan. Same-sex marriage, as announced on the news, had just been legalized. Like the vast majority of young Taiwanese, they couldn’t be happier – it was a historic first in Asia, an event that would shape their lives forever.

“Current Taiwanese law is an obstacle for same-sex couples who want children”

Although tying the knot is no longer a problem, more difficult problems linger on the horizon. Cheng and Shuo have been planning to “conceive” a child since the first day they met, but the conditions to do so are difficult. Cheng wanted to provide his sperm, and Shuo’s lesbian sister was willing to be the “egg donor.” They envisioned a child who would share the genetic characteristics of both, but surrogacy is simply not legal in Taiwan. Difficult circumstances prompted the couple to look to Eastern Europe for surrogates, but language is already a barrier and funds are an even bigger hurdle. Their troubles don’t end with the law. Neither of them came out of the closet with their traditional parents for fear of intergenerational conflict, let alone pushed forward the idea of ​​raising children as a gay couple.

Cheng and Shuo’s story is unfortunately not unique. Gay reproductive rights have yet to advance even three years after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Taiwan. In addition to nature’s obvious barriers to conceiving as a same-sex couple, current Taiwanese law poses a barrier for same-sex couples who want children. Although there is a “Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy” in Taipei, it is a non-profit organization with only three employees; support is extremely sparse to begin with, and navigating same-sex reproduction laws is convoluted. Couples are then left to their own devices to determine possible conception methods, but this often involves worrying about breaking the law or struggling with the harm that same-sex couples cannot legally access the same technologies of artificial reproduction than heterosexual couples.

“Our campaigns for gay reproductive rights[…]will extend significantly beyond our borders”

There are many reasons for this difficult situation. Taiwan is a developing society where old and new values ​​often come into conflict. In a space where traditional Confucian ideas of family struggle against liberal, unconventional design modes and gay reproductive rights laws are slow to take hold.

This leads the government to have two sets of marriage laws for heterosexual and same-sex couples. Under Interpretation No. 748, although same-sex couples can marry, they do not enjoy the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts under the Civil Code. The right to adoption, enjoyed by heterosexual couples, is not granted to same-sex couples. Although gay or lesbian citizens can adopt as singles, they do not have the right to joint adoption as couples. Same-sex couples are also barred from accessing assisted reproductive technologies and gamete (egg and sperm) banks in Taiwan. Accumulating these legal restrictions, it’s not hard to see how same-sex couples simply aren’t on the same footing as opposite-sex couples when it comes to starting a family. If same-sex marriage was legalized with the vision of achieving equality, then it’s time reproductive rights were put on the table for discussion.

Either way, stories like Cheng and Shuo’s are powerful and shouldn’t be ignored. As the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage, Taiwan’s protection of LGBTQ family rights may provide context-specific insight for other like-minded Asian countries seeking to follow in our footsteps. Our campaigns for gay reproductive rights are essential and will extend significantly beyond our borders.

This month, being LGBTQ Pride Month, gives us more courage than ever to put stories like Cheng and Shuo’s in the public spotlight. We love Taiwan and as scholars our work only has meaning if we can apply it to best serve the interests of our people. We believe it is time to act through votes and campaigns: gay reproductive rights are just as deserving of protection as marriage rights.

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