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The Hidden History Of Same-Sex Marriage In Asia

Marriages around the region show that the desire to wed is not just a part of the Western LGBT rights struggle.


Rous Savy and Muern Sarun during their wedding ceremony in Cambodia, 1993. Courtesy of Rous Savy and Muern Sarun

Muern Sarun’s parents had turned down several offers of marriage when they asked a motorbike mechanic named Rous Savy to take their daughter’s hand.

Rous had taken a liking to Muern after she parked in front of his house in Cambodia’s Kandal Province on her way to weave scarves on a friend’s loom. Rous began visiting so often that the neighbors began to gossip: “Who would marry [Muern] if there is a man that goes to her house so often?” Rous quickly got the necessary permissions from the police and village chief, who granted the marriage certificate after Rous was able to reassure them that he would be able to support a family. Rous’ mother helped organize the wedding, which included blessings from four Buddhist monks.

This would be a fairly typical story about a Cambodian marriage, except that Rous Savy was not born male. He had long dressed like a man and referred to himself in male terms, but he was what is known in Cambodia as a “tom.” Gender and sexual orientation categories in Cambodia — as in much of Asia — don’t neatly line up with the terms used in the West. Some toms would probably identify as butch lesbians in the West, while others, like Rous, speak about always feeling “like a man” and would probably be considered trans men.

Gay marriage reveals surprise contrast between ‘starchy’ Britain and ‘freewheeling’ France


By Associated Press,  Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 11:13 AM

LONDON — The French like to make fun of the British, joking about their repressed ways in matters of the heart. But when it came time to debate same-sex marriage, it was France that betrayed a deep conservative streak in sometimes violent protests — while the British showed themselves to be modern and tolerant.

With little fanfare or controversy, Britain announced Wednesday that Queen Elizabeth II — hardly a social radical — had signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. France has also legalized gay marriages, but only after a series of gigantic protests attracting families from the traditional heartland that revealed a deeply split society.

Official word that the queen had approved the bill drew cheers in the usually sedate House of Commons.

“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”

MPs have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales

BBC News
February 3rd, 2013

MPs have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key Commons vote, despite the opposition of dozens of Conservative MPs.

The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day's debate on the bill.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as "an important step forward" that strengthens society.