The document about the department of justice to amend age of consent law can be found here.
by Joanna Chiu
When a housewife from Henan learned her son-in-law had not touched her daughter since the wedding, she knew her suspicions had turned out to be true.
“I told her before the wedding: ‘You found a man who cooks and cleans and dresses himself? He must be gay.’ I was right, of course.”
Lan Yueliang, who now runs an online support group for wives of gay men in China (called tongqi), was one of the speakers who shared stories at the first annual Rainbow China Forum in Hong Kong last month. It was a rare gathering of over 200 gay rights advocates from across China.
Lan said that even though she was able to help her daughter get a divorce, many other tongqi - especially those living in rural areas – did not pursue divorce for fear of social stigma.
“The point is to stop shaming gay husbands,” she said. “Parents need to support their children instead of forcing them to marry. No one benefits from such an awful situation.”
In the past decade, gay-rights groups had started to proliferate in bigger mainland cities, whereas Macau’s first such group was only established this year. In relatively gay-friendly Taiwan, on the other hand, legislators are now reviewing a same-sex marriage bill.
The forum attracted nearly a 100 mainland participants, with some from small towns and rural areas, who said that it was important for Chinese parents and family members to get involved in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights movement.
Social pressures to conform are so strong that sexologist Liu Dalin estimates that 90 per cent of gay and lesbian mainlanders will get married.
A speaker from Guangxi , who calls herself Moli Mama, was a representative for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays China (PFLAG China). “My daughter told me she was a lesbian nine years ago,” she said. “I was so worried. I was afraid that she would be persecuted. I thought, how would I be able to help her? That’s why I started to help organise events around the country for parents of gay children.
“Last year, 10 other parents and I came to Hong Kong to march in the Pride Parade. I think it means a lot for the children to see their parents marching for them.”
This year, the Guangzhou-based group, which was founded in 2008, started to turn to more high-profile strategies to draw attention to gay rights.
In February, the group sent an open letter to the National People’s Congress to ask lawmakers to legalise gay marriage.
“Our children are unable to legally form a family with their beloved partners, because of their sexual orientation, which has caused a great deal of inconvenience for them … It is incredible that gay children can legally marry members of the opposite sex even though they don’t love them,” the letter said.
In April, PFLAG China publicly requested a meeting with Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, the world’s first openly gay head of state, during her visit to Beijing, sparking Chinese internet users to urge Sigurdardottir to speak with President Xi Jinping about human rights.
The Hong Kong-based organisers of the Rainbow China Forum said they would continue to hold yearly forums to encourage co-operation among activists in the region.
Huangzhong Liu, a 20-year-old gay forum participant from Wuhan , said: “In China, it is common for parents to hit children who say they’re gay or show signs of being gay. This shows that this is not just a LGBT rights issue, it’s a human rights issue.”
Those who suffer domestic violence in same-sex partnerships have few avenues for assistance and are wary of mainstream NGOs
by Christy Choi
While attitudes towards sexual minorities are slowly changing in Hong Kong, large numbers of the city’s LGBT community are suffering domestic abuse in silence, a new study has revealed.
City University researchers found that the system is failing the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when it comes to domestic violence.
“[The Social Welfare Department] tends to emphasise a neutral stance. They say [they offer] services irrespective of gender, race or sexual orientation – but that doesn’t help LGBT people. They need a service to be highlighted as LGBT-friendly,” said Leung Lai-ching, associate professor with the university’s applied social sciences department.
Leung spent a year conducting in-depth interviews with nine victims of same-sex partner violence and five organisations dealing with LGBT and domestic violence issues.
The main issues were a lack of awareness of problems faced by LGBT couples, and a lack of support for abused partners.
Many counselling centres in the city are run by religious groups, and while the Social Welfare Department has some counsellors who are “LGBT-friendly”, the wait for an appointment to see them can be long. One interviewee said she waited a month for an appointment.
“I heard from social workers that there’s not much training available for them from the Social Welfare Department,” said Connie Chan, chairperson of the Women’s Coalition, an LGBT organisation interviewed by Leung.
“There were a lot of calls after the legislation [protecting same-sex couples under the Domestic Violence Ordinance] was passed, but after two years there were no more calls,” she said. Chan said more resources needed to be allocated to NGOs dealing with LGBT issues so that they could set up appropriate counselling services.
Around half of the almost 400 people in same-sex relationships polled in 2009 by Chinese University said they had been subjected to physical assault or sexual coercion by their partners. Some said their partners had threatened to reveal their sexual orientation to family members or bosses who may be homophobic.
There is no law in Hong Kong protecting sexual minorities against discrimination.
Some 3.1 per cent said they were willing to seek help from non-governmental organisations, while 0.6 per cent and 0.9 per cent would go to the police or Social Welfare Department, respectively. Few institutions focused on violence between same-sex partners, 89 per cent of respondents said. And 76.8 per cent said they were not confident in the ability of mainstream agencies to deal with LGBT matters.
Hong Kong’s LGBT population has been estimated at anywhere from 1 per cent to 10 per cent of the population.
There is also a lack of knowledge among legal professionals.
“Even lawyers didn’t know there was a law protecting same-sex couples in cases of domestic violence,” said Irene Lam Chi-ching, a senior research assistant who worked on the study.
A police spokeswoman said she did not know if there were any internal guidelines or statistics available, but that it was unlikely the police kept separate breakdowns for LGBT couples.
by: Tony Henderson
Interview with: Dr Dédé Oetomo, a leading activist for LGBT rights in Indonesia. *
Oetomo: I came to Hong Kong to speak at this conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the workplace [First LGBT summit in Asia]. It is a workplace conference organised by some corporations Barclays, HSBC, Citibank. It is the first in Asia, it is a Pan-Asia event. It started in New York with people from Wall Street, three years ago, then in Europe, and the idea is how does the corporate world push for equality in the workplace and in ordinary life. My own topic is Asian values – promoted by the likes of Lee Kwan Yew and other conservatives – which I will deconstruct: in my times people are more restive. At the conference they discuss and share for example what it is like at Goldman Sachs.
Pressenza: What qualifies you to speak on your chosen topic?
Oetomo: I suppose I am qualified to speak given my activism, which has continued from the Eighties, as I am a long time activist, in Indonesia. Also, as my chairmanship from this January of a network of gay men and transgender people from… all over Asia and the Pacific connected to HIV, for its prevention, treatment. We do not do the services but we act on the support side at community level in the sub regions though that came out later, mainly it was my old activism which was brought to the attention of the conference organizers.
Pressenza: It seems quite radical for banks and the like to pick up this topic.
Oetomo: They had internal discussions one presumes, in Hong Kong and Singapore, and probably more discreetly in places like Indonesia, but these are corporation people and are within the LGBT group, fewer of the transgender. They do not feel it is right to have discrimination in the workplace and they also see the same in society and they want to do something for society as well. I agree.
Pressenza: What’s looking positive about the changes of how the world looks at LGBT group, especially in Asia?
Oetomo: Wherever you look among the institutions they are doing something relating to this topic, even the UN is doing something . We are at a very good time and an example is the secretary general of the UN defending us – not that they understand everything but it’s a start.
Some governments like Nepal are proving interesting; India is only ‘getting there’; Thailand may have civil union by next year, ironically via the conservative party; Vietnam may have some form of civil union soon. So, it is like Capitalist, Communist, it does not matter. Who knows what next. Thailand and Vietnam, by 2015, they will be ASEAN community. So someone can get married in Thailand and they can come to Singapore or Indonesia and not be rejected when they register their marriage and they will get all the benefits of a married couple. This is all very new.
Pressenza: Tonight you have a pre-conference meeting outside the main agenda.
Oetomo: Yes, tonight I am speaking at an event organised by the Hong Kong branch of Unitarian Universalists which group has always had a progressive approach as far as I know, at least in North America. This together with a group I have just come across called the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship.
Pressenza: Are you a Christian yourself?
Oetomo: I went to a Catholic school. I do not practise any religion, not because I am gay, it just does not give the boomf or whatever. In Indonesia we have had to work with Muslims and Christians. So far it has been the progressive Muslims. We have also worked with the Protestants. The Catholics are slow. The bishop it seems can’t be seen to be with us but the human rights workers, they are there. What is interesting is that the progressive Muslims are more passionate in the advocacy than we are ourselves. Because they believe that Islam should bring blessings to every human, whoever they are. We work with faith-based organisations, certainly human rights organizations, and feminist organizations.
Pressenza: What is the main task you have set yourselves?
Oetomo: The major part of the work is just to bring the issues up, raising awareness among the people, some advocacy. The latest that came to our attention was a student at an Islamic teachers college who was bullied by his lecturer because he was feminine and he was actually outed in front of the classroom by the lecturer so our network in that little city of Jombang, which is in East Java, got together with pastors, clerics (who have also advocated for Ahmadi’s, for Christian’s whose churches had been attacked, especially in Moslem dominated areas so this network of people, who call themselves pluralists. This group also take the name of our past president with a play on words, Durian – the fruit – the GusDurian network! So, that is the kind of work we do, some advocacy, some litigation, and in some places going to court. But we have been ignored by the government except for the Human Rights Commission, the Women’s Commission, and the AIDS Commission, these were the three semi-governmental commissions that have given us space. They are pretty committed.
Pressenza: As an academic you have studies and research on homosexual practices in the Asia-Pacific region that allows you to bring to light a set of differences that come into play locally and which demand that the West takes a different stand on the issues that arise from the Old World-New World cultural clash, tell us about that.
Oetomo: It was buried by modernity, many Asian and Pacific cultures – and according to my colleagues they said it was the same in Africa – gave space and even roles to homosexuals, men or women and transgenders. Some of these traditional practices and the practitioners continue today. These practitioners would bless weddings, would attend the first ploughing of the rice fields, bless those going on Haj to Mecca (this latter done in something of a hush hush manner as the feeling among some is if you do not appease the old gods they may not be happy and may even follow you to Mecca), and there are medium type priests and priestesses. My favourite example comes from the Bugis culture. There, four genders are recognised. The Shaman has to incorporate the four genders when he or she communicates with the gods or goddesses. I go into this in detail in my writing, “Reclaiming our past, constructing our future: the struggle for LGBTIQ rights in Asia and the Pacific”, part of a book being published by the Christian Conference in Asia. The book will be launched in Busan next week as part of the World Council of Churches gathering taking place there right now as we speak.
Pressenza: an extract from this writing speaks about how the idea of Asian values has been corrupted.
Oetomo: “It is thus ironic, but perhaps understandable, that our nationalist leaders, being among the first to be educated in the modern schools provided by the colonial administrations of the early twentieth century, adopted the gender identity and sexual orientation constructions and morality prevalent among the European colonial rulers, based largely on Victorian-era moral values even when struggling to free our nations from the same colonial powers. They turned their back on the more inclusive and accepting values of the past. The case of the retention of sodomy laws in most of the former British colonies is but one poignant instance.
It is this combination of modernist interpretations of cultural, religious and ideological values that have been bandied around as “Asian values,” “Eastern customs,” or “nationalist values” by our autocrats. They have been used as an excuse for not accepting gender identities or sexual orientations other than masculine and feminine or heterosexuality.”
Pressenza: What are the expectations of your activism and that of those co-operating with you?
Oetomo: Things are moving and yes the resistance is still there in the likes of the observing religionists and the governments, But, you get surprises like in Thailand and Vietnam, and in India where section 377 of the Penal Code is under scrutiny [Chapter XVI, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is a piece of legislation in India introduced during British rule of India that criminalises sexual activity as "against the order of nature." The section was read down to decriminalise same-sex behaviour among consenting adults in a historic judgement by the High Court of Delhi on 2 July 2009. Section 377 continues to apply in the case of sex involving minors and coercive sex.].
Also, as in Nepal, which has a same sex marriage bill pending in parliament and is delayed because of the chaotic state of Nepal’s parliament.
We need to look at the ordinary lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons and when we do, we encounter one of the issues that is going to come up in this conference and that is poverty. It is generally thought that LGBT lot are happy and fun loving and yes, true, but there is the economic side – some need assistance – and they are prone to everything that others are prone too. It is happy that in general human rights defenders, humanists, and activists are starting to understand that human rights are universal and we have include, we have work locally (in Indonesia) with the Shi ites for instance and they really have to wake up because in Iran you cannot have gays, so these groups taking a hard line have to change their view about women etc. I expect the conference to come up with something concrete in this regard – no matter the country or the system…
The resistance to this type of change is actually stronger now than it was in the Eighties when I started my own activism but I see the possibilities today, it really is possible to change attitudes. Our enemies find us an easy target and this is useful for them. But at the same time they themselves are facing human rights activists and the like and are not popular and are having their own problems, and this is so in Indonesia, which is democratising.
Pressenza: Thank you Dédé Oetomo
* After completing his PhD in linguistics at Cornell University in the US, he returned to establish Indonesia’s first gay rights organisation, Lambda Indonesia, in 1982; and later the GAYa NUSANTARA Foundation, in 1987. Dédé is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Surabaya, University of Airlangga, and Widya Mandala Catholic University in Surabaya. He ran for the national parliament in 1999 and 2004. He is an internationally recognized scholar, educator and activist in areas of HIV and AIDS research, training and advocacy. Currently he is Chair of the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM).
by Nigel Collett
Senior executives of 19 global financial services firms gathered last Thursday at Out on the Street Asia, the region’s first LGBT workplace summit, to share their thoughts on LGBT diversity.
If you had been standing in Statue Square last Wednesday evening, the 23rd of October, you would have seen something historic. HSBC’s Main Building shed its red and white light display for the first time in its 30-year life and replaced it with the rainbow colours recognised internationally to represent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
HSBC Hong Kong CEO, Anita Fung Yuen-mei, explained why the next day. Speaking to the first Asian Leadership Summit organised here by the New York-based NGO, Out on the Street, she said that the rainbow lights were intended as a sign that the Bank supported LGBT inclusion. The Bank was doing this not only because “it is the right thing to do” but also because it believed that “HSBC has no choice but to be an authentically compassionate organisation for which all its employees can joyfully work.”
Todd Sears, a gay American financier, founded Out on the Street in 2011, aiming to change attitudes on Wall Street using commercial arguments. That year, he held his first Summit in New York with six major financial houses and since then has held another in the States and a third in London. By the time Sears brought Out in the Street to Hong Kong, its membership had reached twenty-nine major corporations. Barclays took the lead in hosting the fourth Summit at the Conrad Hotel.
It was at one of the three Summits he attended that Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, famously responded to the question “Has Goldman lost business because of your support for LGBT rights and same-sex marriage?” that he didn’t care if they had, adding that no one had yet been able to walk him through the case for how discrimination made good business sense.
Blankfein’s realisation that inclusive policies give a competitive advantage is now one shared by many of Hong Kong’s business leaders. A stellar array of those drove home that message at the Summit. They included Martin Cubbon, CEO of Swire Properties; Oliver Bolitho, Managing Director and Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management Asia Pacific; Andrew Morgan, Managing Director, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Credit Suisse Asia Pacific; and Robert Vogle, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer Asia Pacific for Deutsche Bank.
The hard-headed business executives at the Summit neither saw their firms as human rights advocators nor were prepared to allow anything to deflect them from providing returns for their stakeholders. Instead, their support for LGBT equality in the workplace was motivated by the realisation that having equal, inclusive LGBT policies makes money. Here’s how.
First, supporting LGBT equality dramatically improves productivity at minimal cost. Bank of America Merrill Lynch calculates that 5-10% of its staff are LGBT and that these, when forced to hide their orientation or gender identity at work, do so only at a terrible cost in energy and emotion. That leads to the loss of about 30% in the productivity they would show were they freed to fulfil their potential. The financial cost of paying large numbers of people to work below their capability can be enormous in an international firm. Treating LGBT employees equally and inclusively leads to an immediate rise in creativity at virtually no cost.
Second, having good LGBT policies is tied closely to making profit. Credit Suisse is now so convinced that good ratings in the Corporate Equality Index (which the New York Human Rights Campaign uses to measure LGBT policies) lead to better corporate profits that they have issued an LGBT Equality Portfolio, which will include the stocks of 20-30 top equality-rated US equities from the S&P500. They have figures which show that these stocks outperformed the S&P 500 over the years 2008 to 2013 by 5%. This is not only because of the effect good LGBT policies have on a firm’s productivity, but also because LGBT policies are a measurable indicator of performance across a range of activities.
Third is the massive market for LGBT-friendly business, the Pink Dollar. It is clear that companies which treat LGBT customers better attract and retain them. How big this potential market is has always been something of a hazy conjecture, but by now a good deal of research has been done to clarify the figures. LGBT Capital, an investment firm focussing on the LGBT sector, says that, worldwide, LGBT people are estimated to have 10% greater income than their heterosexual counterparts. The margin in disposable income is even greater. The numbers are large. China, for example, is reckoned to have about 85 million LGBT people (more, in fact, than the entire population of any one European country), and these have an annual income of some US$300 billion. The LGBT market reaches approximately US$800 billion for Asia and a staggering US$3 trillion worldwide.
The realities of this business case have dawned upon top executives at a time when the financial world is in desperate need of good news. Finance houses lost much face in the 2008 crisis and have lost even more of their remaining ethical reputations (along with much money in fines and legal costs) in the scandals that have surfaced since. The industry has come around to the view that LGBT inclusivity is an issue through which they might just retrieve some of their credibility with the public. LGBT inclusion gives the banks good face, and attracts customers and employees of the new generations which are overwhelmingly in favour of LGBT equality and protection.
The banks have got the message, and have begun to realise that they cannot successfully implement equal and inclusive policies without being public about it. It is no longer enough to have good diversity policies; the world has to be told if customers are to know and potential employees to notice. More fundamentally, the banks are reluctantly beginning to realise that, if they are to ensure equality and inclusion in the workplace, they will inevitably need changes in society to match. Coming out at work in the goldfish bowl of Hong Kong is never going to work in the office if your employees are not protected outside it, if they can’t come out at home or if they fear that their next employer may discriminate against them. Free movement of same-sex partnered employees will only work if the host country recognises same-sex relationships by issuing a visa.
Other parts of Hong Kong business are only now waking up to the opportunities to be mined in inclusion. Martin Cubbon, the CEO of Swire Properties, put it succinctly: Swire had to be an ‘open, inclusive meritocracy’ to gain the edge it wanted and recognised that, particularly in its hotel business, “its LGBT employees are instrumental in delivering our product.” Swire now believed, belatedly, as Cubbon admitted, that to be a truly world class city and to allow its business sector to generate greater wealth, Hong Kong ‘needs to be open and inclusive’.
To change Hong Kong, as Todd Sears put it, “it is not only LGBT individuals who have to come out and be visible. Companies have to come out too.” Hong Kong companies are beginning at last to step out of the closet.
Nigel Collett is Fridae’s Hong Kong correspondent. In 2008 he was appointed English secretary of the Pink Alliance, Hong Kong’s largest grouping of LGBT organizations and he remains prominent in LGBT activism in that post. He was a founder in 2011 of Hong Kong’s Pink Season, the annual celebration of LGBT culture.
- See more at: http://www.fridae.asia/newsfeatures/2013/10/29/12482.hong-kongs-business-community-steps-out-of-the-closet#sthash.pGQC1V3T.dpuf