| |THAILAND - Dec 25, 2002
Thailand's health authority has finally followed the footstepsof other international organizations by making an official announcement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. The initiative was a result of a major effort by local advocacy groups led by Anjaree, Thailand's lesbian activist group (Anjaree group was the recipient of a 2000 Utopia Award).
The Mental Health Department said in its certification thatthe decision was made in accordance with the World HealthOrganization's diseases classification that drops "same-sexrelationships" from the list of mental disorders.
Though Thai society generally allows space for homosexuals and transgenders, discrimination against them exists and causes them emotional distress, said Director of the Bureauof Mental Health Development, Dr. Prawate Tantipiwatanaskul, in a seminar held by Anjaree on Dec 23.
Nikorn Arthit, president of another advocacy group,Bangkok Rainbow Organization, said Thailand seriouslylacks support groups to provide correct counseling and advice for the public, "The public health officials, for example, find themselves helpless when it comes to homosexual issues especially when dealing with youths. The visible support by the government agency will help urge counsellers to do a better job," Nikorn said.
The public announcement received positive feedback from the press. "This was seen as the first concrete step by the state to support the existence of homosexuals in society and to stem social prejudice and discrimination against them," said the Bangkok Post. "Public Health Dept accepts same-sex love not a mental sickness," read a headline by another major newspaper, Matichon.
-- Bangkok Rainbow Organization.