'Asia’s diversity and gender diversity’
“Two men canned 83 times in Indonesia for homosexual sex”.[i] “Taiwan’s high court rules same-sex marriage is legal, in a first for Asia”.[ii] This was the week that was in Asia spotlighting gender diversity in particular, and Asia’s diversity, in general. How does one make sense of these milestones in human history?
The public canning of two gay-identifying men, aged 20 and 23, who were caught and filmed by “vigilantes” occurred in Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province which is the only Islamic province in Muslim-majority Indonesia. It is “very rare”, as CNN reports, “even in Aceh, which follows strict Islamic law, for two men to be caned for having sexual relations” (Westcott and Simanjuntak, 2017). The meting out of corporal punishment under Aceh’s Islamic law (hudud) became a spectacle where hundreds turned up at the mosque to witness, film and stream the ordeal of these men who were canned along with four other (heterosexual) couples for “being intimate outside of marriage”.
From Southeast Asia, one traverses to East Asia where a landmark ruling by Taiwan’s Constitutional Court deems the prohibition of same-sex couples from marrying as unconstitutional: these marriage laws “violate their personal freedom and equal protection”. Sexuality rights activists see this as “a huge step forward for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) rights in Taiwan and will resonate across Asia". The Taiwanese courts add that, marriage equality “[safeguards] human dignity, and therefore is a fundamental right" (Chappell, 2017). In contrast to the opposing standpoint of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, the court maintains that, "a permanent union of intimate and exclusive nature for the committed purpose of managing a life together" does not affect “the rights of people in a heterosexual marriage”.
This secular ruling profoundly resonates with the Christian sexual ethics of the Free Community Church of Singapore, an “inclusive community that celebrates diversity in living out God’s love and promise of abundant life for all”.[iii] The FCC—wherein ‘free’ stands for “first realise that everyone is equal”—is a church that is “free”, “inclusive”, ”community”, “relational”, “open”, “ecumenical”, “living”, “relevant” and “missional” where “there is no demarcation between that which is sacred, and that which is secular”.
The diversity of Asia is apparent from the above disparate treatments of gender diversity. There is predominantly denial and castigation of gender diversity on religious grounds not unlike the Catholic Church’s theology of the body that informs its pastoral care of homosexual persons. The Church’s insistence on gender complementarity of the sexes leaves LGBTI Christians the only moral option of leading a “chaste life” for the glory of God.[iv] There is the rarity of a landmark secular ruling predicated on the inviolability of human rights that are in turn, premised on the inalienability of human dignity. And there is the transformative faith that celebrates the dignity of the human person as created in the image of God.
[i] Westcott, B. and Simanjuntak, G. (2017, May 23). Two men canned 83 times in Indonesia for homosexual sex, CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2017/05/23/asia/indonesia-caning-homosexuality/.
[ii] Chappell, B. (2017, May 24). Taiwan’s high court rules same-sex marriage is legal, in a first for Asia, NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/24/529841027/taiwans-high-court-rules-same-sex-marriage-is-legal-in-a-first-for-asia
[iii] Free Community Church. (2013). Our mission. Retrieved from http://www.freecomchurch.org/christian-sexual-ethics/
[iv] Congregation for Doctrine of the Faith. (1986, October 1). Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the pastoral care of homosexual persons. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19861001_homosexual-persons_en.html.