Advancing legal protections for LGBTI people in China

20 February 2017

Stakeholders gathered this week in Hangzhou, China to review and contribute to the shaping of ongoing legislative processes for China’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) inclusive legislation.

Held on 18–20 February 2017, the National Dialogue on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE)-Based Legal Protection was organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Common Language, a Chinese civil society organization. It provided an important opportunity to inform the ongoing drafting of the country’s first Employment Anti-Discrimination Act and Civil Code.

The dialogue brought together over 40 key stakeholders involved in legal protections and policies related to SOGIE in China, including government officials, legislators, legal experts and scholars, law practitioners, as well as civil society and development partners. It facilitated engagement and provided a platform for the development of strategies on promoting inclusive legal and policy changes and more effective access to justice mechanisms for LGBTI people.

Government participants attended from the Human Development Centre of the Ministry of Health and the All China Women’s Federation National Research Institute, both of which are essential if LGBTI concerns are to be included in gender and health mandates.

During the dialogue, James Yang, National Programme Analyst on SOGIE and HIV, UNDP China, presented an overview of the role of the UN and UNDP in promoting LGBTI inclusion, with specific reference to the work of the Being LGBTI in Asia programme — a regional programme aimed at addressing inequality, violence and discrimination on the basis of SOGIE or intersex status, and promoting universal access to health, justice and social services. In China, the programme is currently conducting studies on legal gender recognition and employment discrimination.

Expert participants led sessions on issues related to advancing legal protections, and discussed pressing legal and policy concerns with regards to employment discrimination, family violence, school bullying and partner and family rights.

Participants from top academic institutions across China also discussed and commented on a number of significant strategic litigations concerning LGBTI inclusion, including those related to property rights and reproductive rights.

Representatives from Peking University and Professor Liu Minghui from China Women’s University presented key findings of research studies conducted jointly with UNDP, including a soon-to-be-published study on legal gender recognition in China as well as findings related to employment discrimination and family violence from a 2016 national survey on social attitudes towards SOGIE.

Experts from the Renmin Law School also facilitated a session on employment discrimination featuring a recent case concerning a gay man living with HIV.

Gender and sexual diversity specialists from the Beijing Normal University, with experience on SOGIE-based school-related bullying, discussed the importance of engaging educators and textbook authors to ensure LGBTI inclusive content and to avoid discriminatory representation, as well as the importance of working with community groups on legislation.

A legal synopsis was presented focusing on a recent landmark employment discrimination case involving a trans man and a follow-up lawsuit filed on the basis of discrimination and violation of “human dignity”.

The dialogue was highly successful and provided legal experts and community groups with the opportunity to give inputs to a member of the drafting committee for the Civil Code on SOGIE-related family and partner rights.

Additionally, participants drafted a legislative proposal focusing on school-related violence and bullying that will be submitted to legislators for the National People’s Congress and to meetings of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in March 2017. This draft legislative proposal was initiated following the successful collaboration of community groups and legal experts in filing the first anti-discrimination lawsuit involving a transgender person (“Mr. C”) in 2016. This case prompted considerable media attention and public discussion and as a result of the community’s direct engagement with legal experts, a scholar from the University of Politics and Law attended the court trial as the very first expert witness for an employment discrimination case in China.

Participants also had the opportunity to review and strategize on key pending employment discrimination cases involving transgender people and people living with HIV.

The national dialogue concluded with multi sectoral stakeholders making a united commitment to work together to strengthen legal protections for LGBTI people.

UNDP plans to organize a technical briefing meeting in 2017 to follow up on the outcomes of this dialogue and further engage key legal experts and other stakeholders.