Taiwan: Gay-themed children’s book sparks education row

A gay-themed children’s book about two princes, who fall in love and get married, has sparked protests by parents in Taiwan, after it was added to a government-backed reading programme.

“King & King”, originally published in Dutch, follows the story of a young prince, who was pressured by his mother to marry a princess, but then falls in love with another prince.

The Chinese version of the book was added to a list of books that the government distributed to students aged six and seven this month in Taiwan, which last year became the first place in Asia to allow same-sex marriage.

The reading scheme is part of an extra-curricular programme, aimed at fostering a love for reading, and is not compulsory in schools. Despite this, the move sparked protests outside the education ministry this week.

“This is brainwashing. The government is trying to undermine the values of heterosexual marriages,” said Tseng Hsien-ying, president of the Coalition for the Happiness of Our Next Generation, a group opposed to same-sex marriage.

“It is confusing our children,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Friday, calling for the book to be withdrawn.

Taiwan’s education ministry defended the decision on social media, stating that the book would help children to “recognise and respect differences”, and promote a diverse society.

LGBT+ advocacy group, Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association, called for acceptance, and said its surveys showed that half of gay people were aware of their sexual orientation in elementary school levels, but had to hide it.

“We can’t just ignore the existence of LGBT+ youths,” the Taipei-based charity said in a statement.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Taiwan in mid-2019, after the self-ruled island’s parliament passed a historic law, reinforcing its reputation as a beacon of liberalism in Asia.

Despite this, socially conservative attitudes still largely hold sway, and those who oppose same-sex marriage say such unions could destroy society and family institutions.

-Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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