Advancing Inclusion: The Pro Bono Journey Toward Empowering Asia's Rainbow Families

by Emmanuele Marie C. Parra, Programme Officer, Asia, TrustLaw.
Tuesday, 23 April 2024 11:03 GMT

REUTERS/ Athit Perawongmetha

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This impact story is part of a series to celebrate the extraordinary pro bono projects undertaken by legal teams to support NGOs and social enterprises with the support of TrustLaw. All projects mentioned in this series are nominated for the 2024 TrustLaw Awards. Find out more. 

According to Community Business, a recognised leader in advancing responsible and inclusive business practices in Asia, ‘Rainbow families’ is a concept that is gaining acceptance across Asia. The umbrella term is versatile and can be used to define a range of family formations. It may refer to a family with parents of the same sex bringing up a child, an LGBT+ parented family, or a family in which one or more of the children identify as LGBT+.  

Organisational Support for Rainbow Families 

While views are changing, local customs and social norms have historically contributed to Rainbow families often lacking legal protection and receiving little visibility in the media or Asian-based research. This is what motivated Community Business to begin work shining a light on the diversity of Rainbow families and the challenges they face in Asia. 

Community Business facilitate networks, conducts research and events, leads programmes and campaigns and provide consulting and training services to develop inclusive and responsible businesses. They do this by building responsible leadership, tackling workplace inequality, ensuring employee well-being, and promoting social inclusion.  

In 2023, Community Business launched an LGBT+ Inclusion Index in Singapore, which is a benchmark for organisations to gauge their inclusivity. Based on this, they developed a research project titled, “Rainbow Families and how organisations can support them”. This publication highlights the structural, legislative and workplace challenges faced by Rainbow families in several markets in Asia, and provides recommendations on how organisations could offer greater support. They emphasised the necessity for an Asian lens to understand the socio-cultural complexities around this topic and effectively interpret the situation in key markets.  

Community Business was also aware of the sensitive nature of the information in the report concerning its representations of the LGBTQ+ community and wanted to avoid potential bias and comply with local law. 

Providing legal support 

In line with this, Community Business reached out to TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s global pro bono legal service, for support in reducing the risk that potential legal obstacles could compromise the impact of the report.  TrustLaw connected them with several law firms in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, including Morrison Foerster and Lee and Li, Attorneys-at-Law, who were able to advise on relevant local laws. 

Janet Ledger, CEO of Community Business said The legal service provided by TrustLaw was immensely valuable and will have a lasting effect on our organisation. Much of our work touches upon legal sensitivities in our markets, each of which has complex and varied laws and regulations about our areas of investigation. For us to advise our partners and comment confidentially, having the option of legal advice is not only beneficial, but crucial. 

Research projects such as the Rainbow Families publication  have a significant impact on societal understanding for minority issues. We hope the insights from this research can drive broader social change by challenging current workplace practices and providing practical recommendations to improve LGBT+ workplace equality. The research also helps us to remain as thought leaders in this space and keep driving the conversation around these important issues.” 

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