Courts Order Thai Military to Cease Labeling Transsexuals as Mentally Ill

by Thailand Lawyer on September 19, 2011

Thailand has gained the reputation for being a sort of Mecca of tolerance for the world’s LGTB community, especially for individuals who identify as being transgendered or transsexual. Yet certain Thai institutions and customs persist that continue to put the nation’s transgendered citizens at extreme risk for humiliation, threats, or abuse. Case in point: Thailand’s military, for which male to female transsexuals are conscripted under Thai law. Imagine: you are a young transsexual woman standing in the middle of a group of Thai men, ordered to strip for a medical checkup at a recruitment facility. Young men around you are stripping down to their under things, but you stand paralyzed with fear (only in 2007 was rape of transsexuals deemed an offense punishable by prison term in Thailand) and even more, with humiliation: you are being forced to strip in a public setting for a medical exam from which you will inevitably be disqualified due to your sexual identity. And until very recently, you would have left the recruitment quarters with a document stating that your transgendered identity qualified as an irreparable psychosis.

This past week, Thai Courts have ordered Thailand’s military to stop identifying transsexuals as being “permanently mentally ill”, eliminating a significant obstacle for members of Thailand’s transgendered community. As male-to-female transsexuals are still recognized as males under Thai law, and males are conscripted at age 18 into the Thai military, classifications of mental illness have previously negatively affected transsexuals when applying for jobs, as many workplaces ask that males include their transcription documents with their applications.

It’s worth noting that while this week’s ruling is indeed a positive development for Thailand’s transsexuals, the case indirectly highlights the deeper cultural values and legal definitions that bar the transgendered community in Thailand from attaining the basic rights afforded to their cisgendered peers Under Thai law, Thai transsexuals may not change their gender status after surgical procedures. Likewise, Thai law prohibits same-sex marriage, a widely supported attitude within Thai society as a whole. Thai transsexuals are therefore prevented from marrying individuals of the same sex as their “legal” gender, and transgender partners do not enjoy the same privileges as married couples, including the right to inherit property from a partner, or the right to obtain a marriage visa for a foreign partner.

Even this latest positive development comes with significant caveats –the Central Administrative Court in Bangkok did not specify a new classification for Thai transsexuals within military documents, and the court did not prohibit the military from barring transsexuals from service. While Thailand offers transgendered individuals a culture that is significantly more accepting of alternative lifestyles than much of the rest of the world, Thailand is still an inherently very conservative country, and the nation’s deeply held social and cultural values will likely continue to make the path to transgendered rights a very rocky one.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie September 29, 2011 at 16:39

Growing up in London in the early 70’s and from an Irish immigrant background I was well placed to see how Equality is a fluid process both sexually and culturally. With the Irish brought in to help rebuild after the war, while their skills were very much needed, there was still huge discrimination evident in (for example) housing, leading to ‘ghetto’ areas like Kilburn in London. A similar situation arose in 1972 after Idi Amin Forced families out of Kenya. Interesting to note that many of both these peoples want on to form major business and became major employers. There is a path that discrimination follows.

Parkpoom January 14, 2012 at 18:27

Thank you for your widely education viewpointed comment. As we know that the disclimination in Thailand has just started and still try to climb up to the in’tl standard. Anyway the fluid of itself is developed and can say that “not bad” arosen new original regulations.

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