Report Sheds Light on Being LGBT in China

13 Aug 2014

imageUNDP China Country Director, Christophe Bahuet giving open remarks

While important progress has been made in recent years, being LGBT in China remains difficult. The first national report on LGBT issues in China commends positive steps such as the abolishment of laws used to intimidate LGBT people and the fact that homosexuality has been taken off the list of mental diseases. The report also highlights a positive growth in LGBT civil society, changing societal attitudes and a growing interest from academic institutions on LGBT-related research and policy discussions.

However, widespread stigma and discrimination against LGBT people persist, with predominantly negative societal attitudes towards sexual and gender minorities. Employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is still common. Bullying and discrimination in schools is widespread, with 77% of LGBT students experiencing some form of discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws are needed to protect LGBT people.

Societal and family pressures to conform push manyLGBT people to hide their sexual orientation and enter into a heterosexual marriage or into “cooperation marriages” (known as Xing Shi Hun Yin in Chinese, or “marriage under cover”) with each other.Finally, censorship regulations still ban homosexual content in any form in movies and television preventing a broader conversation on sexual and gender minorities in China.

Access to mental health services and support is weak while ‘correction treatment’ and committal to psychiatric hospitals, often by family members, is still too common. LGBT organizations, while growing, are still extremely weak and unable to provide the support services needed by their communities.

The report, part of the broader ‘Being LGBT in Asia’ initiative aims to promote understanding of the fundamental challenges faced by LGBT people and to document the progress being made in anti-discrimination efforts.  The report isa joint collaboration between the UNDP,the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and leading LGBT Civil society groups and is based on information gathered during a number ofpolicy dialoguesincluding the China National LGBT Community Dialogue held in August 2013 in Beijing.

The official launch of the Report included a video message from United Nations Secretary General Ban-ki Moon who congratulated the efforts of the Being LGBT in Asia initiative: “I want to congratulate the Being LGBT in Asia Initiative. It bravely seeks to extend protections to LGBT individuals in 8 Asian countries, including China”.Mr. Ban also commented on the situation of LGBT people in China: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people face violence and discrimination for no other reason than being who they are. China has made important progress in building a society where prosperity and dignity can be enjoyed by all. Today, as always, I stand with you. The UN is here to support your efforts in building a world of equality and justice” he said.

Representatives of LGBT community organizations in China were present at the launch to provide their perspective. Wei Jiangang, executive director of the Beijing Gender and Health Institute said: “We are very happy to see the completion of this report, which highlights the vulnerabilities and needs of the LGBT community in China. We hope that we can take these findings and utilize them to make progress on many of these issues. Our goal is a more inclusive, accepting and diverse China”. Xu Bin, Executive Director of Common Language said: “I believe the Report signifies a new era of over twenty year's LGBT activism in China: every one deserves a life with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity”.

UNDP China’s Country Director, Christophe Bahuet, said at the event, “We aim to use the findings and recommendations in this report to guide our future work on LGBT issues and advance critical partnerships with different government agencies, development partners, and community organizations to realize a society where everyone can be who they are, and love who they love, without fear of stigma or discrimination”.

Thomas White, Deputy Director for Governance and Vulnerable Populations at USAID Regional Mission, Bangkok added  “USAID’s vision is a world in which LGBT persons are respected and they are able to live with dignity and freedom from discrimination, persecution, and violence.  We welcome partners and leaders who are interested in working with us toward achieving that goal.”

The report provides an overview of LGBT issues in China as broadly related to law, policy, social and cultural attitudes, and more specifically to employment, education, health, family, media and technology, and community development.  It identifies regional differences in LGBT acceptance and community development as well as important organizations working for the protection of LGBT rights.

Download the report here.

Message from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon