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Taiwan votes to keep marriage laws traditional

International | Referendums garner broad pro-family support
by Angela Lu Fulton
Posted 11/27/18, 01:47 pm

TAIPEI, Taiwan—Three referendums supporting marriage between one man and one woman passed overwhelmingly in Saturday elections in Taiwan. The votes show that most citizens still hold traditional values even though the country’s highest court moved toward legalizing same-sex marriage in 2017.

The question of whether Taiwan Civil Code should continue to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman received more than 7.6 million yes votes compared to 2.9 million voting no. Referendums need 4.94 million votes—a quarter of eligible voters—to be considered by the government.

Another referendum stating the Ministry of Education should not enforce LGBT curriculum in elementary and middle school passed with more than 7 million yes votes, and a ballot initiative that would allow same-sex couples to enter a civil union separate from “marriage as defined by the Civil Code” was approved with 6.4 million yes votes.

Meanwhile, two referendums in support of same-sex marriage did not garner enough votes to pass.

Taiwan was set to become the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage after the country’s high court ruled the Civil Code’s definition of marriage was unconstitutional. The grand justices ordered that the law be amended or another law legalizing same-sex marriage be introduced within two years.

The ruling faced strong opposition from Taiwanese Christians, who make up only 5 percent of the population, as well as others supportive of traditional families. The pro-family Happiness for the Next Generation Alliance collected nearly 2 million signatures to get the three proposals on Saturday’s ballot.

“People used their ballots to make their voice heard,” Tseng Hsien-ying, the group’s president, told Focus Taiwan. “Family values and inclusion of those values in the education of the next generation are mainstream public opinions that the government should heed.”

The Taiwanese government said that it still plans to create new laws in accordance with the court ruling, but the eventual legislation will likely be weaker. The BBC reported the government may end up giving same-sex couples legal protection without allowing them to marry.

The elections were also a blow to the ruling pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The pro-Beijing Kuomingtang won 15 of the 22 cities and counties in Taiwan. The flip is a sign of people’s frustration with President Tsai Ing-wen amid a sluggish economy and worsening relations with China. In response to the defeat, Tsai stepped down as the leader of the DPP.

Associated Press/Photo by Silvia Cristaldi/UGC Associated Press/Photo by Silvia Cristaldi/UGC Silvia Costanza Romano

Italian aid worker kidnapped in Kenya

Gunmen in Kenya last week kidnapped an Italian aid worker in the first foreign abduction the country has seen in recent years.

Police said the attackers seized 23-year-old Silvia Costanza Romano from the Chakama trading center in the coastal county of Kilifi last Tuesday. Romano worked for Africa Milele Onlus, an Italian nonprofit group that supports orphaned children in the country.

One of the witnesses, Ronald Ngala, said six men armed with machetes and guns stormed the organization’s offices at Chakama and took Romano. “She told me to help myself, and I ran for the man at the door with a club and pushed him away and escaped,” Ngala said. The attackers injured five people, including at least two children.

In her most recent post on Twitter, Romano thanked the Kenyan children she worked with for teaching her to love a simple life. “This has been the deepest experience of my life,” she said.

Gunmen in Kenya kidnapped several foreign nationals in 2011 and 2012 when the country deployed troops to support Somalia in fighting the al-Shabaab Islamic terror group. Authorities identified three suspects, but no group claimed responsibility for Romano’s abduction. —Onize Ohikere

Associated Press/Photo by Hani Mohammed Associated Press/Photo by Hani Mohammed A doctor examines a malnourished child in October in Hajjah, Yemen.

Yemeni children suffer toll of war

Almost 85,000 children younger than age 5 have died from “extreme” hunger or disease in the Yemeni civil war, according to a report released by Save the Children last week. The aid group said it gathered data from the United Nations and reached a conservative estimate of 84,701 child deaths from severe acute malnutrition between April 2015 and October 2018.

Since the Yemeni war began in 2015, Shiite Houthi rebels have controlled the country’s North, while the Saudi-backed government controls the South. The UN said the number of people at risk of famine in the country has increased significantly to 14 million—half the population—over the past year since the Saudi-led coalition launched a blockade of Yemen. Save the Children and four other international charities on Monday released a statement calling on the United States to stop backing the coalition with military support, which it said deepens and prolongs the crisis. —O.O.

Nigeria still fighting Boko Haram

The Nigerian army acknowledged militants from a Boko Haram offshoot staged a major attack on its forces in northeast Borno state last week.

In a statement released on Facebook, the army said the extremists targeted its 157-member battalion in the town of Metele on Nov. 18. The report failed to confirm the number of casualties but said reinforcement troops regained control of the town.

The SITE Intelligence monitoring group released a statement from Islamic State West African Province claiming militants killed 42 Nigerian soldiers in the attack that spanned two days.

The Nigerian government has repeatedly said it defeated Boko Haram, an Islamic terror group, in the Northeast. This month, Islamic State West African Province released a photo report of how it stormed another base in Kareto, Borno. The Islamic State (ISIS) Amaq news agency reported on Sunday that the group captured the town of Kangarwa, also in Borno. —O.O.

Malaysia detains Christians

Malaysian authorities last week detained four Christians from Finland who distributed religious materials on one of the country’s islands. Authorities arrested the two men and two women at their hotel on the popular resort island of Langkawi. Finland’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the arrests. Langkawi police chief Mohamad Iqbal Ibrahim said authorities received complaints about the group handing out Christian materials. Police seized 47 pens with Bible verses on them and 336 notebooks containing passages from the Bible. Ibrahim said the four Christians, who are being held by the country’s Immigration Department, will be blacklisted and deported. In Muslim-majority Malaysia, evangelizing members of other religions is considered a criminal offense. —O.O.

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine based in Taiwan. Follow Angela on Twitter @angela818.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Tue, 11/27/2018 04:18 pm

    I really wonder if our use of the word "traditional" undermines our efforts.  These are not customs we are debating over and voting on, but a fundamental biological reality?

    I propose a new title for this article: "Taiwan votes to keep it real" with the the subtitle "Taiwanese agree about the reality of marriage".