School forces students to take down marriage equality campaign photos

A student in Lamphun has been ordered to take down a set of campaign photographs on marriage equality from their social media account by their school administration, which claims that protests should not be done on campus or in uniform.

One of the photo from the set shows a student in uniform carrying a Pride flag. On the right is a screencap of a message from their teacher summoning the student for a meeting. (Picture from Young Pride Club)

Fah (pseudonym), a Mathayom 6 (Year 12) student in Lamphun, said that she was summoned to meet on Thursday (17 February 2022) with school administrators along with other students who participated in the campaign, after they posted on Monday (14 February 2022) a set of photographs of themselves carrying Pride flags and flashing the three-finger ‘Hunger Games’ salute as part of a campaign for marriage equality.

Fah said that Mathayom 6 students were taking their graduation photos on that day, and so were already wearing their school uniform. Since she saw that the LGBTQ right activist network Rainbow Coalition for Marriage Equality was staging rallies across the country to campaign for the right of people to register their marriages regardless of gender, she invited her friends to take photos with Pride flags at several locations in the city, including their school campus. Fah then posted the photos on her personal Facebook profile.

She said that a teacher saw the photos, and the school administration was upset that there were photos of the students flying Pride flags and flashing the three-finger ‘Hunger Game’ salute, a well-recognized resistance symbol commonly used by pro-democracy protesters. She was told by a teacher that the principal wanted them to take the photos down, and that it is inappropriate to take part in such a campaign while on campus and in uniform.

Fah said that she refused to take the photos down, and that her teachers are trying to pressure her into taking them down by calling her and sending her Facebook messages, but she has not answered their calls or answered their messages.

She said that this is not the first time her school has tried to limit students’ freedom of expression. Students were harassed at an earlier protest in Lamphun town, near the Queen Cham Thewi (Camadevi) Monument. She alleged that the school provided the police with students’ personal information, allowing the police to visit students at home, and that the school did not try to protect its own students.

Fah said she thinks that the school is a public space, although some teachers see it as private, and that students should be safe to organize activities on campus. She said that campaigning for marriage equality would not damage the school’s reputation, but would instead be a good thing if the school showed support for the LGBTQ community, which is a universal value.

“If the school still deprives students of the right to freedom of expression, you will not be able to develop towards a free world,” she said.

An activist holding a sign calling for people to back the marriage equality bill during a gathering in Bangkok on Monday evening (14 February 2022). Another activist in the background is holding a sign saying "If people are equal, we must have a marriage equality law."

On Monday (14 February 2022), Valentine’s Day, activists in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and several other provinces staged rallies to campaign for marriage equality, after proposed amendments to the marriage law to allow registration of marriage regardless of gender were delayed by parliament. Activists in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Sakhon Nakon set up booths to hand out leaflets, Pride flags, and stickers, and invited people to sign the online petition backing a bill proposing amendments to the marriage law to allow registration of marriage regardless of gender. The bill is proposed by a network of civil society organizations and is currently gathering signatures so that it can go before parliament.

A similar bill was proposed by the Move Forward party in early 2021. It went before parliament on 9 February 2022 for a first reading. However, parliament voted to have it forwarded to the Cabinet for a 60-day review.

Both bills propose to amend Article 1448 of the Civil and Commercial Code, which governs marriage, so that marriage registration is allowed between two people of any gender, instead of only between a man and a woman. If passed, these amendments will individuals to be legally married regardless of gender, and ensure that they receive equal rights, duties, and protection under the law. LGBTQ couples who have registered their marriage will be able to adopt children together, make medical decisions on behalf of their partner, and in cases where one partner dies, the other will be able to inherit from their partner and make legal decisions about their partner’s assets.

The bill being proposed by civil society also proposes to raise the age at which people can legally marry from 17 to 18 years old, and to replace the terms “man” and “woman” in every article of the Civil and Commercial Code relating to marriage with “person,” as well as to replace “husband” and “wife” with “spouse” and “father” and “mother” with “parents.”

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