A large-scale survey of gay men and lesbians in Taiwan has suggested that almost one in five have attempted to take their own lives, leading to calls from advocacy groups for the government to educate students about homosexuality and introduce laws to protect the rights of LGBT students.
The survey, conducted by the Friendly Taiwan Alliance, a coalition of several gay and trans rights groups, also found that almost a third of the respondents had contemplated suicide at some point in their lives.
The Alliance collected more than 2,700 valid responses in just 10 days, indicating, it said, the significance and urgency of the issue at hand. The problem, the group argued, is the hostile environment at the hands of the government, the media, and the public at large, this despite Taiwan regularly hosting one of the largest gay pride parades in Asia.
According to the data released by the group, 35 percent identified themselves as lesbian, 39 percent as gay men, 20 percent as bisexual, 2 percent as transgender, and 4 percent uncertain.
Notably, the survey showed that nearly three in five respondents suffered from verbal abuse and social isolation. In addition, 23% did not receive any gay-friendly resources or support below the age of 18. The main concerns stem from family acceptance, according to 79% of those surveyed, while 68% said they were burdened by society’s expectations that they should marry.
According to the Taipei Times, the education ministry was scheduled to introduce education on gender-equality, including the subject of homosexuality, into the curriculum for elementary and junior-high schools in August, 2011. But, the Alliance believes that a strong religious opposition meant that the government back-tracked on its promise.
A ministry official however has said this was not the case, and that gender equality education had already been incorporated into the country’s Nine-Year Educational Program [sic]. As to the issue of homosexuality itself, the spokesperson said it was a “reference point for teachers only.” The plan wasn’t completely halted, she added, but “temporarily postponed.”
Wang Ping, secretary-general of Gender & Sexuality Rights Association Taiwan, said that the percentage of homosexuals who had attempted suicide is likely to be higher. He added: “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.”