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19 Dec 2013

Is it possible to set up a Gay NGO in China? It would seem not.

Ah Qiang, director of PFLAG China, discusses the obstacles in registering a gay organisation as a NGO and how that plays into the wider issues facing LGBT people in China. For more, read his blog http://www.weibo.com/aqiang

Recently, myself and a group of homosexual people went to the Bureau of Civil Affairs to submit a civil registration as a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).

However, the Bureau of Civil Affairs replied that "homosexual agencies cannot register". We immediately applied for public information of this procedure and an illustration of why the Bureau of Civil Affairs had refused our request.

On November 29th, we received a reply, by letter, from the  Bureau of Civil Affairs. The letter contained a number of points:

Firstly, according to the Marriage Law of PRC, 5th clause: “marriage shall be completely voluntary between a male and female." Meaning that same-sex marriage is illegal. Therefore, according the bureau, the establishment of a homosexual social organization is without legal basis.

Secondly, according to the Administration of Social Organization Registration, 4th clause, “social organizations shall abide by the Constitution, laws, regulations and policies of the state, and shall not violate social morality.” Homosexuality is in conflict with traditional Chinese culture and civilization, and thus homosexual organizations cannot be established.

The bureau’s logic is that since "marriage law" does not recognize homosexual marriage, gay public institutions cannot be established. However, if "Marriage law" is used to regulate issues of marriage, how can it also become a legal basis for the establishment of public welfare institutions?

I wanted to establish a public institution, which addresses the health of the local gay population. I did not bring a gay spouse to register. What is the relationship between the establishment of a gay NGO and gay marriage? Besides this, although gay marriage is not legal, recently, the Chinese government has been more active in educating the gay population on health issues. Does this mean that what the government does in the gay community is illegal?

At present, there is no Chinese law that states that homosexuality is illegal; homosexuality does not violate any laws in China. Furthermore, compared with Islamic civilizationsand Christian civilization, the Chinese Confucian culture has always been tolerant of homosexuality. Relatively speaking, historical records have shown that there has been no large-scale or severe persecution of homosexuals, and in fact there is a far-reaching influence of gay culture in Chinese history.

Homosexuality is a sexual tendency of a minority group of those who have emotional, psychological or/and sexual affection on the same gender. Sexual orientation is not always up to oneself, and it may even depend on genetic factors. Sociological research shows that gay people account for 3-5% of the world’s total population. Regardless of different race, nationality, religion, this ratio is relatively constant.

The reply from the Bureau of Civil Affairs regarded homosexuality as "unhealthy" and “uncivilized." In China there are more than 50 million gay people, and the biggest problems are caused by this sort of bias and discrimination. Some people even think that homosexuality is a moral problem. Many homosexuals are forced into heterosexual marriages to hide their true identities, which bring even more victims. Gay people in China experience serious psychological problems including depression as a result of this social prejudice and discrimination.

Setting up an NGO for gay people would begin to tackle the various problems and issues affecting LGBT people because of the prejudice to the homosexual community the face. But instead we discover that the local civil affairs departments are also entrenched with prejudice, which is only going to aggravate social discrimination.

Gay marriage may not be legal, but this does not mean that homosexual people, couples, and groups don’t exist. It is vital to strengthen health education in this population, as well as family consultancy related to health and even life. So far, China does not have a public institution of homosexual issues which has obtained civil registration, and the reason behind this is prejudice and discrimination. The Bureau of Civil Affairs need only to build up general knowledge and acceptance of homosexuality, and we shall protect the rights of this group: caring community and the social rights.

Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author on 2013-12-21 17:41
2. 2013-12-21 17:42  
there is missunderstanding
gay/LGBT regarded as culture from other country.

So, Civil affair bureau is not totally wrong.
They just afraid that gay/LGBT is culture from other country.

You are gay, no need to go to bureu then.

Do you know what religion did?
Religion make law inside law.
It is not correct.

How Religion can exist to make law inside law?
They did not come to bureue first to ask confession.
They are small at first.
That is invasion way.

I saw this phenomena in many countries

3. 2013-12-29 23:59  

I remember that some time back, Long Yang Club (LYC) even tried to start up a chapter in Shanghai. There was even a website. Whether any events took place, I do not know.

Starting gay organizations in many places even outside China has always been "ground-breaking".

Even when LYC started LYC-Paris in 1983, it faced French govt. restrictions because then, the French authorities were very concerned about groups of any kind being formed, eventhough it was a social group and not a political group.

And if I am correct, I think Singapore gay and lesbian groups had their problems in registering themselves. The ice on the Island Repulic has been thawing and attitudes seem to be warming towards gays recently, albeit slowly.

It may take time for the Chinese authorities to change their attitudes, but the likelihood is that it will change - especially when they realise that gays are not a threat at all to ruling party. The thing is, like many Asian and developing countries which have adopted more and more Western lifestyles, more and more people will realise that being gay and/or lesbian is only "a natural" thing, and it is not something abnormal. They will also realise that homosexuals can be good humans too and contribute to society in a favorable way.

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