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ASIA - Oct 14, 1998

Time for a round-up of GLBT status in the region. Do you sense the momentum? Much progress has been made since the beginning of the decade...

AUSTRALIA
Activism: pushing for protection of equal rights under the law
Economy: Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras is Australia's largest $ earning organised attraction.
Legal: Age of consent for gays and lesbians vary by state and territory, sometimes differing from heterosexuals. Some legal protection from discrimination exists for homosexuals.
Lesbian: scene is vibrant
Publications: numerous, major and minor
Recent Events: Last Year's Mardis Gras garnered 99 milion Australian dollars.
Tolerance: broadly tolerated
Venues: numerous
Visibility: regional and world-wide visibility

BRUNEI
Tolerance: Islamic prohibition
Venues: only cruising and private parties
Visibility: invisible

BURMA/MYANMAR
Venues: cruising only
Tolerance: traditional tolerance, no Buddhist prohibition
Visibility: invisible

CAMBODIA
Venues: cruising only
Recent Events: same-sex marriage for female couple reported
Tolerance: traditional tolerance, no religious prohibition
Visibility: invisible

CHINA (Hong Kong see below)
Activism: was mostly Chinese living abroad, but now the most active and influential players are in Mainland China. They are people like the psychologist professor Zhang Beichuan, AIDS worker Wan Yanhai, novelist Cui Zien, etc. The overseas groups (CSSSM, founded by Wan Yanhai when he was in the US) retains close ties with those in the Mainland. Activism in China (and Hong Kong and Taiwan) are not the same as activism as understood in the American sense. There is no Supreme Court system empowered to tell the administrative authorities what to do and there is no generally accepted discourse of individual rights. So mass demonstrations and legal battles do not work. There is considerable activism but you have to know what to look out for to find it.
Economy: underground pink economy beginning to emerge
Legal: not illegal, but police harassment occurs.
Recent Events: Shanghai officials asked two popular gay bars to close temporarily during President Clinton's recent visit. Ongoing academic and medical debate to depathologize homosexuality. Feature film "East Palace, West Palace" achieves international acclaim and Director's passport is seized by officials.
Tolerance: broad ignorance, official intolerance, socially stigmatized.
Venues: popping up in major cities
Visibility: invisible. Well documented historical male-love traditions.

HONG KONG S.A.R.
Activism: minimal since legalization of homosexuality.
Economy: underground pink economy
Legal: Homosexuality decriminalized for adult males. No law pertaining to lesbians.
Lesbian: small and mostly hidden. Lesbians are more political and vocal than gays with groups like Queer Sisters.
Publications: lots of pamphlets are put out by local GLBT groups. Also popular are imports Taiwanese, Japanese and Thai materials. There is now a wholely gay publisher, HuaSheng Press, that publishes only GLBT books, mainly HK and Mainland and Taiwanese fiction.
Recent Events: Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Asia's oldest). Also hosted the 1st & 2nd International Chinese Tongzhi Conference in Dec 1996 and Feb 1998, attracting worldwide participants.
Tolerance: socially stigmatised. No religious prohibition.
Venues: numerous, but small, and mostly private.
Visibility: regional visibility, gossip about entertainers. Gay exist as stereotypes in the media.

INDONESIA
Activism: well organized, broad interest GLBT groups hold national meetings.
Economy: minimal pink economy
Legal: not illegal
Lesbian: minimal and largely invisible
Publications: minor
Tolerance: traditional tolerance, some traditional homosexual activity documented. Islam largely tolerant here.
Venues: only in larger cities, large cruise and transgender scene
Visibility: visibility, especially transgender.

JAPANActivism: small groups, acheived success in the courts by addressing government discrimination.
Economy: vibrant pink economy
Legal: Age of consent is 13 for males.
Lesbian: scene is strong. First lesbian pride march in 1997.
Publications: numerous, major and minor
Recent Events: 7th Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Pride Parade. High court issues scathing rebuttal to Tokyo government for discrimination against gay group.
Tolerance: socially stigmatised, no religious prohibition from Shinto or Buddhism.
Venues: numerous
Visibility: largely invisible and misunderstood by society. Most GLBT get married and conform to social standards outwardly. Transexualism is culturally institutionalized and homosexual traditions exist in literature. Well documented historical male-love traditions.

KOREA (South)
Activism: minimal and emerging, university organizations
Economy: underground, bars and saunas
Legal: not illegal
Lesbian: scene exists
Publications: minor
Recent Events: First Gay and Lesbian Film Festival forced to close last year. Some official backtracking as a result ot international attention and local aggitation
Tolerance: no traditional intolerance, severe Christian anti-gay prohibition.
Venues: numerous
Visibility: largely invisible

LAOS
Legal: punishable offense
Venues: cruising only
Tolerance: no Buddhist prohibition
Visibility: invisible

MALAYSIA
Activism: one grassroots gay AIDS outreach group
Economy: small underground pink economy
Legal: Sodomy and fellatio are illegal. Muslim GLBT are also subject to religious law.
Recent Events: Police arrest 50 transexuals at private pageant. Activity at local disco suspended after their attempt to host a gay pride party.
Tolerance: traditional tolerance. Islamic anti-gay intolerance.
Venues: only in largest cities
Visibility: largely invisible

NEW ZEALAND
Economy: organized pink economy
Legal: Age of consent is 16. Residency granted to same-sex partner of more than 4 years.
Lesbian: scene exists
Publications: one major
Tolerance: tolerated
Venues: plentiful

PHILIPPINES
Activism: expanding
Economy: underground pink economy
Legal: Age of consent is 18
Lesbian: small and mostly hidden
Publications: minor
Recent Events: Pride Parade
Tolerance: traditional social tolerance. Heavy Christian prohibition.
Venues: numerous, mostly commercial sex.
Visibility: visible, cultural and media personalities. Gay themes in film and culture.

SINGAPORE
Activism: grass-roots G&L group disbanded by government threat. Smaller, private social and support groups exist as well as Internet entities.
Economy: large underground pink economy
Legal: homosexual activities illegal, privacy not protected. Gays can serve compulsory military duty, however those who declare "302" status are separated, and usually stigmatized. That declaration also goes into your record and can be read by future employers.
Lesbian: small scene exists
Publications: one major, some imported English language books.
Tolerance: socially stigmatised, severe Christian anti-gay
prohibition. Educated, young population largely tolerant. Intolerant officials. Frequent entrapment and public humiliation.
Venues: plentiful
Visibility: largely invisible. Homosexuality and transgenderism have emerged as a cultural issue in the arts.

TAIWAN
Activism: emerging, mostly students with some professional business people. Most of the participants of the 1994 public hearing on anti-discrimination legislation for homosexuals and many public protests were attended by and/or organized by students.
Economy: blossoming pink economy
Legal: not illegal, no age of consent (criminalized in the military only)
Lesbian: mostly hidden. First lesbian organization formed in 1990. Generally more vocal and political than gays and better organized. They also complain that a lot of time, they are the ones facing media to fight for gay issues like park cruising.
Publications: 3 government approved major magazines, many books
Recent Events: First gay pride event held in 1997
Tolerance: misunderstood and socially stigmatised. No religious prohibition, but there exists Christian religious backlash against recent GLBT gains, though not as violent as US Christian Right
Venues: many, expanding and becoming upscale, visible and trendy
Visibility: largely invisible. Gay themes have emerged in film and literature. Homoerotic themes are becoming visible in the entertainment industry and gay issues in the news.

THAILAND
Activism: one grassroots lesbian group exists.
Economy: growing pink economy, mostly underground
Legal: not illegal. Age of consent is 15.
Lesbian: no strictly lesbian venues exist, yet lesbians broadly tolerated. Upper-class women are highly empowered, heading many corporations. Lower and middle-class women face discrimination.Publications: numerous, major and minor, plus imported English books. Absense of gay themes in Thai modern literature.
Recent Events: Anjaree lesbian group came out to the press. Local and international pressure forced rescinding of a proposed ban on homosexual students at teachers colleges around the country. Steady positive news in the foreign press and steady sensationalized news in the Thai press. Champion transgender boxer and volleyball team.
Tolerance: broadly tolerated, yet socially stigmatised. No religious prohibition from Buddhism.Venues: many, mostly commercial sex.
Visibility: transgenders visible, homosexuals quietly acknowledged at all levels of society--in entertainment, government, aristocracy, business, the military, and in daily life. Gay characters seen on TV.

VIETNAM
Activism: one grassroots gay AIDS outreach group
Economy: tiny underground pink economy, discos and bars
Legal: not illegal
Recent Events: same-sex marriage for a male couple and a female
couple. Female couple was subsequently bullied into separating by petty officials.
Tolerance: traditional tolerance
Venues: growing, especially in Saigon
Visibility: invisible



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