China Court to Hear Test Case on Gay Depiction in Media

A Chinese court is to decide on a test case concerning the depiction of homosexuals in the media. Gay relations are currently treated as abnormal.

Mainland Chinese newspaper The Global Times reported that a Beijing court Wednesday accepted a case brought by a private citizen, Fan Chunlin, demanding that the country’s media regulator State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) to clarify its current regulations. A verdict is likely to be announced within six months.

Regulations currently ban online providers from carrying content that “present abnormal sexual relations or behavior,” such as incest, homosexual relations, sexual harassment and sexual violence. Any such content is considered pornographic or vulgar, opening the platform or broadcaster to penalties.

The regulation was published in June last year by China Netcasting Service Association, a non-governmental organization administered by SAPPRFT. It counts China’s major Internet providers and streaming services as its members.

China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997. And homosexuality was removed from a list of mental illnesses in 2001. But being gay continues to carry much of the social stigma in China that it did through most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Because of the stigma, the number of homosexuals in China is unknown. The Global Times puts the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at around 70 million people, or 5% of the national population.

Private legal actions against government bodies are problematic and extremely rare in China. Fan’s lawyer, Tang Xiangqian, says the chance of winning is small but that the action would raise awareness of LGBT issues.

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