Chinese student activists are urging 112 of its most prominent universities to introduce new policies protecting and supporting the LGBT community on their campuses.
Three organizations from mainland China—the anti-discrimination group Justice for All, LGBT Rights Advocacy China, and China Same Sex Love—jointly sent an open letter to the universities on Teachers’ Day, a nationwide celebration on September 10. In the letter, they asked that the schools offer courses on gender diversity, edit of any teaching materials that could be seen as supporting anti-LGBT discrimination, and allow the establishment of organizations such as Gay-Straight Alliances.
Homosexuality was declassified in China as a mental disorder in 2001, but social change has been slow in coming. In August 2014, the Gay and Lesbian Campus Association in China announced that a review of ninety textbooks, mostly regarding the subject of psychology and published in 2002 or later, showed that less than half even mentioned gay people. Of those that did, 40 percent explicitly defined homosexuality as a mental illness.
According to the South China Morning Post, the letter reads in part, “We appeal and encourage principals at various universities to play a positive role in gender equality education, to face up [to]the basic demands of sexual-minority students including gays, bisexuals and transgenders.”
The letter also asks that protections against harassment be strengthened: “When gay students are facing bullies, please guarantee their rights and offer them psychological support. When the university’s regulations violate the rights of gay students, please be brave [and]make changes.”
In May 2012, a survey conducted by Aibai Culture and Education Centre showed that more than 75 percent of respondents in Beijing and Guangzhou, from junior high through university, had been subjected to both physical and verbal bullying by their fellow students because of their perceived sexual orientation.
The activists were not alone in requesting stricter anti-bullying policies; 256 students and staff from Fujian Province’s Xiamen University sent an open letter of their own to education minister Yuan Guiren, demanding that regulations against sexual harassment be implemented in schools nationwide.
The need for such was highlighted by a scandal at Xiamen in June, where a history teacher was accused of raping multiple students.
The LGBT activists’ letter states, “We always believe that as a place with relatively open culture and thinking, a university is [meant]to cultivate hope and [the]future of the country, and it should accept different voices and groups.”