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Chinese society gradually opening up to gays and lesbians: UN survey

world Updated: May 17, 2016 19:29 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Hu Mingliang (second from left) and his partner Sun Wenlin (second from right) sign on a rainbow flag - a symbol of the LGBT movement - during their legally unrecognised wedding ceremony in Changsha, central China's Hunan province on May 17. Hu and Sun tied the knot in a wedding ceremony where imitation marriage certificates were presented despite a Chinese court ruling on April 13 against the two men seeking to marry. (AFP)

Younger Chinese are more open to accepting lesbian, gay and bisexual people in their circles, an UN survey revealed on Tuesday, adding China is a country in transition where more and more citizens are tolerating alternative sexualities.

Chinese society, however, continues to be rife with prejudices against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, forcing a majority from the community to remain secretive about their sexuality.

But the broad attitude of acceptance that is gradually emerging is an opportunity for a change in Chinese society’s outlook towards the LGBTI community, the survey of 30,000 respondents from across the country said.

In China, according to state media, it was only in 2001 that homosexuality was removed from the list of psychological diseases. Same sex marriage is still illegal.

The report, released in Beijing, explores the environment – family, legal, education, employment and health services – that the LGBTI community lives in. The picture that emerged was not all pretty.

“The report finds that many LGBTI people in China still live in the shadows, with only 5% of them willing to live their diversity openly,” it said.

“It shows that the majority of LGBTI people continue to face discrimination in many aspects of their lives, most importantly within the family, where the deepest forms of rejection and abuse reside, followed by schools and the workplace.”

The report said access to health and social services remains difficult when a person’s sexual orientation or gender diversity is known to, or suspected by, service providers. “This stigma is doubly reinforced for those sexual and gender minority people who are living with HIV,” it added.

But the survey, conducted by the UNDP, Peking University’s sociology department and the Beijing LGBT Centre, indicated positives changes in attitude are evident.

“Most importantly, however, the survey paints a country in transition, where the majority of people do not hold negative nor stereotypical views of LGBTI people, with young people being more open towards and accepting of sexual and gender diversity,” it said.

The report suggested this attitude represents an important “opportunity for LGBTI people and depicts a society that could achieve rapid and profound change, especially if guided in the right direction by civil society, policymakers, academia, the media as well as LGBTI people themselves”.