Civic groups in support of sexual minorities are set to file a petition against a Protestant-affiliated party in late May amid growing controversy over the party’s campaign pledges.
The groups advocating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in South Korea began to collect signatures online on Tuesday, hoping to lodge the petition with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea on May 24.
The Christian Libertarian Party has largely opposed three things: creation of a Halal town, passage of an antidiscrimination law and homosexuality.
The party said in its election flyers and posters that the plan to build Halal factories would invite at least 300,000 Muslims, which they said would put the country at higher risk of terrorism and sexual crimes against Korean women. The move drew ire from the Korea Muslim Foundation which called it “vicious defamation against a specific region” and demanded the nation’s election committee withdraw the anti-Muslim campaign flyers.
The Protestant-backed party also vowed to stop the National Assembly from passing the pending antidiscrimination law which it sees as expanding homosexuality and undermining the Bible’s teachings. It also said that homosexuality is against humanity and causes sexual diseases such HIV-AIDS on its campaign trail.
“The party’s presence poses a fundamental threat to human rights and democracy. We could not sit back and stay silent when the party is now entitled to government subsidies,” the lawyer Han said.
In South Korea, any political party with a seat in the parliament or with more than 2 percent of votes in the election can receive political funds from the government.
The Christian Libertarian Party earned 2.63 percent of total votes. Another religion-backed Christian Democratic Party took 0.54 percent of the votes, putting the combined votes for the Christian bloc at over 3 percent.
The Christian Libertarian Party failed to secure any seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, but it is expected to receive about 400 million won in the second half of the year and 1.9 billion won in 2017.
The party also violates international law, said the lawyer Han. “As the international law is effective as domestic law, the NHRCK should base the international law to confirm the party’s inflammatory policies as discriminatory.”
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, which took effect in Korea in 1990, prohibits any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that incites discrimination, hostility or violence. It also stipulates that all persons are entitled to protection against discrimination on grounds such as race, sex and religion.
“On one hand, freedom of speech in the political arena should be allowed to the fullest,” said law professor Hong Seong-soo from Sookmyung Women’s University. ”On the other hand, politicians’ opinions inciting discrimination against minorities and different religions in public should be regulated because such actions make those on the edge of society impossible to lead their lives.”
“Currently, South Korea has no law that can ban discrimination and inflammatory remarks in public,” Hong said, adding that the Constitution stipulating antidiscrimination values cannot serve as legal deterrence.
Antidiscrimination laws aimed at rooting out bigotry on such grounds as gender, disability, age, race, marital status and religion have been submitted to the National Assembly since 2007. But they remain deadlocked in the face of Protestant groups’ fierce resistance to equal rights for sexual minorities.
For now, the NHRCK receives complaints and opens an investigation when discrimination based on sexual, religious and racial grounds takes place. If needed, it imposes recommendations, but they have no legally binding force.
But the prospects for the upcoming petition against the Christian party do not seem rosy, with the NHRCK official mulling over whether it is within its authority to investigate a political party’s election pledges.
“When we receive a petition on discrimination, we decide whether the discrimination occurred in such sectors as employment, education. If not, we are likely to dismiss the case.”
The lawyer Han said that he hopes to receive a “proper answer.”
“What is more serious than discriminatory action itself is the fundamental structure that continues to allow discrimination to spread across the country,” he said. “It is the human rights watchdog’s responsibility to fix the structure.
The link to the petition: bit.ly/countering_hate
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)