Impact litigations to unit hearts for LGBT in China

By June 29, 2021 June 30th, 2021 Advocacy, Newsroom, Regional

Contributor: Guang Chen Yang
Director of China Rainbow Media Awards
Co-founder/Programme officer of LGBT Rights Advocacy China

“The current situation demonstrates even further that more efforts are needed to protect everyone’s dignity, and we need to unite our hearts together.”

Yang, Director of China Rainbow Media Awards, China

Once, we organised a lawyers training workshop with over 50 lawyers and law professors in Chengdu, the most LGBT-friendly city in Western China. As a Chinese LGBT rights organisation that focuses on impact litigation, our work relies heavily on lawyers’ participation. During lunch time, we mingled with several participants.

“How’s your new job?” I asked a young lawyer who had just finished his law degree and had received and accepted an offer from a top law firm. Surprisingly, the young lawyer told me that his team manager sacked him after he came out to a team member.

“He said I didn’t belong to this team,” the young lawyer explained.

“You didn’t fight back?” I asked

After a few seconds, he replied firmly, “No! I don’t want to ruin my career.”

At that moment, I realised that many LGBT people continue to experience discrimination in the workplace or in educational settings, and many people are still fearful to stand up for themselves. LGBT people still don’t want to access the legal system, because of the social stigma and social unacceptance around the LGBT community – even though he or she is a lawyer.

China has the largest LGBT population in the world. Still, mainstream public attitudes regarding the LGBT community remain ambiguous; on the one hand, there are many significant pink economy achievements, such as Blued, the world’s largest gay dating app, and popular Boy Love adaptations of films and dramas, which makes the country look like it is slowly accepting sexual minorities.

On the other hand, there is no anti-discrimination or LGBT protection laws or policies and our rights are not guaranteed. A study from Rainbow Law School shows that over 12,000 law terms in Chinese jurisprudence contain expressions such as spouse, husband/wife, and family, but that same-sex couples are excluded from these definitions. We demand that the Chinese legal system takes steps to enable all citizens live a life with justice and dignity in this country. 

We established LGBT Rights Advocacy China in 2013, and we achieved our first lawsuit relating to conversion therapy in 2014, as my partner went to a clinic and took electric shock treatment. We brought the case to court and finally won it.

It was the first impact litigation in the Chinese LGBT movement. Most importantly, in the final judge statement, ‘homosexuality is not a disease’ was first written into Chinese legal documents. Since then, we have kept using legal advocacy to secure LGBT rights in different areas, such as education rights in school, anti-discrimination in the workplace, and marriage equality, thus indicating that legal advocacy can lead to strong outcomes in contemporary Chinese society. So far, we have launched 14 impact litigations and won six of them. It is not too bad, is it?

Since the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the LGBT community globally, we have seen many tragedies happening in our community at multiple levels, from lack of healthcare resources, to SOGI-based abuses. The current situation demonstrates even further that more efforts are needed to protect everyone’s dignity, and we need to unite our hearts together.

About our contributor

Yang is a human rights advocate and LGBT campaigner from China. In the past 12 years, he has been working in areas such as conservation, LGBT rights and media freedom. In recent years, he published two LGBT media coverage monitoring reports and organised over twenty LGBT training workshops for lawyers and journalists in China.

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