China mulls civil unions

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 23 Dec 2019

Legalizing same-sex marriage was among the top suggestions made by the Chinese public to lawmakers tasked with amending the civil code, a spokesperson for the top legislative body said.

The public push comes despite a recent crackdown in China on LGBT activists and the wider gay community, as well as censorship of content related to homosexuality in films and social media.

Feedback from ordinary people was solicited in November by the Commission for Legislative Affairs ahead of its meeting next week to discuss updates to the civil code, which mostly deals with matters relating to marriage and family.

The parliamentary body received more than 237,000 online suggestions and 5,600 letters on the topic, said commission spokesman Yue Zhongming at a press briefing on Friday.

These messages requested the clarification on the "definition of close relatives, improving the shared debt obligations of spouses and legalizing same-sex marriage," Yue said.

He did not offer details on whether same-sex marriage will be included in the final draft of the civil code, which lawmakers are scheduled to discuss from December 23-28.

Although China decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed it from its list of mental illnesses in 2001, same-sex marriage remains illegal.

In April, a Beijing court dismissed an appeal against recently-enforced rules by the national media watchdog which ban gay content on film and television and describe homosexuality as "abnormal."

Government restrictions on the queer community also continue offline, with two LGBT groups in Guangzhou being shut down earlier this year for being "illegal organizations," according to a government notice.

Many LGBT non-profits have struggled to legally register with the government, while those already registered can rarely publicly promote gay rights, according to NGOs.

Meanwhile, Taiwan, an island that Beijing considers a breakaway province, legalized same-sex marriage in May, becoming the first place in Asia to do so.

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