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Taiwanese leader plans to legalise gay marriage

October 2, 2003

TAIPEI — Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian on Thursday repeated his plan to abolish the death penalty and legalize marriage between homosexuals.

Chen told a Danish parliamentarian delegation, "Taiwan wants to be founded on the basis of human rights. I hope that Taiwan's human rights standards can catch up with that of the world as soon as possible."

Chen said Taiwan has drafted the "Human Rights Basic Law", which covers abolishing the death penalty and legalizing gay marriage.

But he did not say when the Human Rights Basic Law would be implemented.

Since becoming president in 2000, Chen - a defence lawyer for political dissidents during Taiwan's martial law years - has vowed to improve Taiwan's human rights record. He appointed Vice President Lu Hsiu-lien to head the Human Rights Consultative Committee under the Presidential Office.

Abolishing the death penalty and legalizing gay marriage are two controversial issues faced by Chen's administration.

Public opinion polls show 70 per cent of Taiwanese want the death penalty to stay, but human rights activists insist abolishing capital punishment is a world trend.

Taiwan's constitution states marriage is between a man and a woman, so the parliament would have to amend it if it wants to launch the Human Rights Basic Law and legalize gay marriage.

In 2000, Chen received two U.S. human rights activists attending the annual Taipei Gay Carnival, and told them homosexuals must fight for their rights.

Taiwan has one gay bookstore, one gay publishing house and dozens of gay rights organizations.

But Taiwan gays still complain about discrimination in schools and jobs, and occasional police raids on gay bars, saunas and parks frequented by homosexuals. –Sapa-DPA

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