The Taiwanese gay community will be celebrating during the coming month as the 2008 Taipei Gay Carnival began today.

The highlight of the carnival will be the Pride parade on 27th September.

It is expected to attract up to 20,000 participants, making it the largest in Asia.

There will also be seminars on LGBT issues and the city government is running an essay competition. The best five will be published in a booklet about gay life in Taipei.

Compared to its Asian neighbours Taiwan has a more positive stance towards the gay community, and has previously discussed introducing same-sex unions.

It has become common for politicians to speak at Taipei Pride.

Last year the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) presidential candidate Ma Ying-jeou spoke before the parade started, pledging to lobby for legislation to protect LGBT rights.

The gay scene in Taiwan has blossomed since the first pride parade in 2003, which attracted only 1,000 marchers. There are now gay cafes and bookshops opening.

But while tolerance has grown, equality laws still lag behind, especially regarding the right to marry.