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Chinese Lesbian Dating App “Rela” Disappears, Sparking Fears of Discrimination regarding Same-Sex Marriages

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Screen grab of China's Rela dating site app. RFA
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May 31, 2017: China appears to have shuttered the lesbian app Rela, prompting some to wonder if the move is a part of state censorship of LBGT rights following a ruling in Taiwan earlier this paving the way for same-sex marriages.

The company said in a brief statement on its official account on the social media platform Sina Weibo that it had temporarily suspended the app for “important adjustments to the service.”

The app is no longer available on the iOS or Android app stores.

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Weibo users hit back at the app’s disappearance, although many said they believed it would make a comeback.

“Rela was the best app I have ever used,” user @ataimi commented. “I will wait for it for as long as the company doesn’t close down.”

“The reason it has been shut down isn’t necessarily because it was gay,” wrote @yueguan_Sywwwww, while @jiujilanger added: “I have no words.”

“I was just wondering today why I couldn’t sign on,” wrote @maoyihelianwu, while @Zeen1123 added, in a reference to the disapproval of lesbians by straight men in China.

“Homosexuality isn’t illegal, so I don’t know why they’ve shut Rela down, unless it’s a manifestation of straight-male cancer.”

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And @chalegedawan added: “One day, love and equality will triumph over discrimination and oppression, as long as we keep speaking out.”

Social pressure

Homosexuality was officially regarded as a mental illness in China until 2011, and LGBT people face huge social pressure to marry and have children.

Last month, China’s Cyberspace Administration shuttered gay dating app Zank, saying it had broadcast “pornographic content.”

A thorough investigation found that the apps failed to take responsibility for providing safe content, official media reported.

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“For example, some hosts wore military uniforms or army badges, while others were scantily clad and displayed seductive behavior,” according to state broadcaster CGTN.

“Some of them even spread private Wechat and QQ accounts, luring fans to engage in pornography via social platforms,” it said.

U.S.-based rights activist Liu Qing said homosexuality has long been a documented part of China’s history and culture.

“Homosexuality in China has generally been tolerated, compared with a lot of other places,” Liu said. “But there are still a lot of people with very backward-looking, feudal attitudes in China, in spite of the scientific evidence that shows it is a natural phenomenon.”

“[This leads to] a lot of deliberate discrimination against gay people, unlike in western democracies, which have generally begun to protect their rights.”

‘No big deal’

China’s state propaganda machine last week warned the country’s media not to “make a big deal” of a May 26 ruling by Taiwan’s constitutional court that effectively legalized same-sex marriages in two years’ time.

But rights groups welcomed the landmark ruling, and called on other governments in the region to follow suit.

In April 2016, a court in the central Chinese province of Hunan rejected a complaint filed by a gay man against the government for refusing his application to marry his male partner.

Sun Wenlin, 26, had filed the historic complaint against the Furong district civil affairs bureau in Hunan’s provincial capital Changsha, after officials from the bureau refused to allow him and his partner Hu Mingliang to register their marriage there. (RFA)

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Same-sex Marriage Referendum Gets Rejected in Taiwan

"This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan,"

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Taiwan
Participants pull a rainbow tarpaulin through the gay and lesbian parade in Taipei, Taiwan, Oct. 28, 2017. Voters reject legalizing same-sex unions in a referendum, Nov. 24, 2018. VOA

Voters in Taiwan passed a referendum asking that marriage be restricted to one man and one woman, a setback to LGBT couples hoping their island will be the first place in Asia to let same-sex couples share child custody and insurance benefits.

The vote on Saturday, organized by Christian groups that make up about 5 percent of Taiwan’s population and advocates of the traditional Chinese family structure, goes against a May 2017 Constitutional Court ruling. Justices told legislators then to make same-sex marriage legal within two years, a first for Asia where religion and conservative governments normally keep the bans in place.

Although the ballot initiative is advisory only, it is expected to frustrate lawmakers mindful of public opinion as they face the court deadline next year. Many legislators will stand for re-election in 2020.

Marriage, taiwan
Lin Chinxuan, right, holds a reflector as Austin Haung, 32, photographs Kao Shaochun, left, and John Sugden during their pre-wedding photoshoot in Taipei, Taiwan, Nov. 11, 2018. Chinxuan and Haung are a couple and together they run Hiwow studio photographing LGBTQ couples. VOA

“The legislature has lots of choices on how to make this court order take effect,” said referendum proponent Chen Ke, a Catholic pastor in Taiwan and an opponent of same-sex marriage.

Ruling party lawmakers backed by President Tsai Ing-wen had proposed legalizing same-sex marriage in late 2016, but put their ideas aside to await the court hearing.

Opposition to same-sex marriage crested after the court ruling. Opponents have held rallies and mobilized votes online.

Courts will still consider local marriage licensing offices in violation of the law by May 2019, if they refuse same-sex couples, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said last week.

pride flag, taiwan
The rainbow pride flag of the LGBT community. wikimedia

“The referendum is a general survey, it doesn’t have very strong legal implications,” said Shiau Hong-chi, professor of gender studies and communications management at Shih-Hsin University in Taiwan. “One way or another it has to go back to the court.”

Voters approved a separate measure Saturday calling for a “different process” to protect same-sex unions. It’s viewed as an alternative to using the civil code. A third initiative, also approved, asked that schools avoid teaching LGBT “education.”

Amnesty International told the government it needs to “deliver equality and dignity.”

Also Read: Law Legalising Same-sex Marriage Causes Grudges Between Families in Taiwan

“This result is a bitter blow and a step backwards for human rights in Taiwan,” Amnesty’s Taiwan-based Acting Director Annie Huang said. “However, despite this setback, we remain confident that love and equality will ultimately prevail.”

Taiwanese also elected candidates from the China-friendly opposition Nationalist Party to a majority of mayoral and county magistrate posts, reversing the party’s losses in 2014. (VOA)