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Taiwan moves to abolish death penalty, legalise gay unions

October 20, 2003

TAIPEI — Taiwan's government is drafting legislation to abolish the death penalty and legitimise gay marriages, a cabinet official said Monday.

If the laws are approved by parliament, Taiwan would be the first in Asia to legalise marriages among people of the same sex.

Jointly drafted by the presidential office and the cabinet, the proposal is designed to protect basic human rights, the official said.

"More than half of the draft has been completed so far, of which the gradual removal of death sentence was ratified," he said.

In October 2002, President Chen Shui-bian announced that Taiwan would gradually phase out capital punishment.

The presidential office said Monday the move to abolish the death penalty would ensure the right to life to everyone, including convicted criminals.

The government is also seeking to legitimise gay marriages and recognise the right of homosexual couples to adopt children, he said.

"The human rights of homosexuals have been gradually recognised by countries around the world," the United Daily News said quoting the presidential office.

"To protect their rights, people (of the same sex) should have the right to wed and have a family based on their free will," it added.

Under existing adoption rules, gays and lesbians are not considered as prospective parents.

The Taiwan Gay and Lesbian Association hailed the legislation which its officials described as an act of "goodwill" from the government.

"It would be our pleasure to see the development. Basically we are positive towards the goodwill from the government," said Chan Ming-chou, an official with the association.

However, Chan told AFP that there was still a long way to go before discrimination against homosexuals ends.

The final draft of the bill is expected to be ready for parliamentary review in December, the cabinet official said. –Sapa-DPA

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