Apr 182012
Yang Yu-hui

The government should teach students about homosexuality and should introduce laws to protect the rights of gay people, advocacy groups said yesterday, following a poll showing that more than a quarter of gay people in the country had thought of committing suicide because of a hostile living environment.

The survey was conducted by the “Friendly Taiwan Alliance” — an alliance of several gender and gay rights advocacy groups — on the “conditions and the pressure that gay people are subjected to in Taiwan.”

The survey showed that 58 percent of respondents had been victimized — notably in the form of verbal abuse and social isolation.

A total of 29 percent said they had contemplated suicide, with 18 percent having attempted to take their own life.

The survey also showed that 23 percent of respondents did not receive any gay-friendly resources before the age of 18.

On the subject of social pressures, 79 percent of respondents cited uncertainty about family acceptance, and 68 percent pointed to the burden of society’s expectations that they should marry.

The survey collected 2,785 valid responses in just 10 days, the alliance said, showing the urgency and significance of the issue.

Chien Chih-chieh (簡至潔), a member of Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said the high ratios indicated a lack of self-identity and resources for homosexual people in their adolescence, placing them under considerable pressure.

Gender/Sexuality Rights Association Taiwan secretary-general Wang Ping (王蘋) said the percentage of gay people who had attempted suicide might be higher, as many of them bore scars on their wrists.

“Taiwan’s lack of education on homosexuality has led to the aforementioned results. To build a multicultural and equal society, gay-friendly education and legislation are very important, as fair treatment is not a privilege, but a basic human right,” Wang said.

The Ministry of Education was scheduled to introduce gender-equality education — including the subject of homosexuality— into the curriculum for elementary and junior-high schools on Aug. 1 last year.

However, religious organizations fought its implementation by pressuring legislators and the ministry to drop the plan, the alliance said, accusing the ministry of violating the Gender Equality Education Act (性別平等教育法) and of administrative delinquency.

In response, Yang Yu-hui (楊玉惠), a ministry official, said that gender equality education has already been incorporated into the curriculum of the nation’s Nine-Year Educational Program.

As for teaching about homosexuality, which sparked the controversy last year, Yang said it has been made a reference point for teachers only.

Yang added that the plan was not halted because of the ministry’s negligence, but because of a resolution passed by the legislature asking it be temporarily postponed.

According to the alliance, of the 2,785 respondents in the survey, 35 percent identified themselves as lesbians, 39 percent as gays, 20 percent as bisexuals, 2 percent as transgender and 4 percent were uncertain.

Stacy Hsu

Additional reporting by Hu Ching-hui and Hsieh Wen-hua