On Thursday, the panel drafting Thailand's new constitution confirmed that the document will include references to a "third gender" for the first time, Reuters reports. The nation joins other Asian countries, including India and Nepal, who has recently legally recognized third genders.
Thailand's constitution is currently being rewritten following a military coup in May. The new ruling junta appointed a Constitution Drafting Committee who has, among other changes, considered how to codify fairer treatment of trans people into law.
"We are putting the words 'third gender' in the constitution because Thai society has advanced," panel spokesperson Kamnoon Sittisamarn explained to Reuters. "There are not only men and women, we need to protect all sexes. We consider all sexes to be equal."
"It is a human right if you were born a male or female and you want to have a sex change or lead a life of a different gender," Sittisamarn is further quoted by CNN. "People should have [that] freedom to change sex and they should be equally protected by the Constitution and the law and treated fairly."
Thai culture has historically been one of the world's most open to trans people, according to Asia-Pacific newspaper The Diplomat. Trans singers, actors, and TV personalities remain popular, and the country is host to at least two annual beauty contests for trans women. The nation has seen more gender confirmation surgeries than any other since transition-related medical caretakers began accepting patients in 1972.
Although trans people, and especially kathoeys (an identity roughly equivalent to trans women in Western societies), are recognized by many as part of Thai society, The Diplomat notes that most still face social stigma and have not historically been protected by laws regardless of the prevalence of gender-affirming surgery. Trans Thai citizens are still not able to change their gender marker on legally identifying documents and those facing employment discrimination have no legal recourse.
"First of all in Thailand, we're pretty well-accepted, we can walk in the street and we don't have to fear that someone's going to shoot you in the head," trans businessperson Jenisa Limpanilchart explained to CNN. "At the same time, the most difficult thing is at a professional level, that people don't accept people like us."