4 Dec 2010

Analysing anti-Black racism in modern China (Essay)

Studying in Beijing for the second year of my BA Chinese studies, I did a research project on racism in China. Before that, I thought that any foreigner like me would be adored by the Chinese who are desperate to get their hands on anything foreign. The truth is, what Chinese people adore are white people and their perceived superior looks and 'status'. If you are of dark complexion, you will not enjoy the same treatment as white people in China and don't even think of getting a job as an English teacher (even if your mother tongue is English, they will prefer the broken English of any blond Russian girl). The racist world image of China is that whites are superior to anyone and only Asians come close to them. One would think that nowadays, with so much exposure and exchange with the outer world (Beijing Olympics, Shanghai Expo, MTV, internet...) that Chinese would understand that a black person is just the same as any other human, but the majority is far from that. See below one chapter of my essay followed by a link to the complete work:

In his work “Anti-Black Racism in Post-Mao China” Berry Sautman provides a detailed historical account of Africans coming to the People’s Republic. I will not reproduce every incident that yet successfully brings the vile attitudes of contempt towards Blacks to the light, but try to highlight details that might help to look for reasons for the racial contempt of the Chinese at that time.

While these cultural exchange-students in the 1960s were unhappy with China, it was dissatisfaction with living standards, rather than racism, that the students from mostly elite-backgrounds complained about. At that time, Maoist China was supportive off third-world nations and sought to find diplomatic allies particularly in Africa. The first major race riots start only a few years after Mao’s death.

The pattern of the 1979 race riot in Shanghai was to be repeated in the decades after: Either African or Chinese students complained about each other’s behaviour, Africans would become angry about the lack of help or even mistreatment from authorities and confrontations would end violently. While reading the account of these confrontations, it seems unusual to me that police reportedly would not intervene in some cases, stand by attacks or come hours after the assaults started.

“Africans were stoned and the foreign student hall of residence besieged by Chinese hurling bricks. African students called the police, but officers did not arrive for several hours and failed to intervene as fighting continued throughout the day.”

From my experience it takes second nowadays for the police to vigorously respond to any minor scuffle.

In the 1980s, African students (sometimes along with Arabs and South Asians) staged several protests over the mistreatment and continuous racial taunting: 1980 in Nanjing, 1983, 1985 and 1987 in Beijing and 1986 in Tianjin along with minor incidents in Nanjing, Shenyang and Xi’an that year, 1988 in Hangzhou and Wuhan.

A factor in some universities was that Chinese complained Africans would “pollute Chinese society by having relations with Chinese women”. Africans were also accused of being AIDS-carriers.

From analysing historical backgrounds, a change in attitudes towards Africa is evident. During the Mao era and national emphasis on belonging to the oppressed people, racial stereotypes played minor factors that Africans experienced in China. After the reform era in the late 1970s, morality changed and no longer was the third-world propagandised as the main friend, but the European and American lifestyle as the better, richer, more promising and sophisticated example that is to be striven for.

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13 May 2010

UK: Pessimism as anti-gay MP becomes Equality Minister

Theresa May has been chosen to act as Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality by the new Cameron-led government in Great Britain. Her suitability for the position has been questioned by people who highlighted her voting record (see below for details): Except for the Civil Partnership Act, she has constantly either voted against bills that made LGBTs more equal and been (purposely?) absent from parliament when many of them were discussed. Pinknews quotes David Henry of gay rights group OutRage! saying: “Mrs May is the wrong person for the job", “She's always been against gay rights since I can remember. I'm pretty sure she's opposed almost every gay rights measure”.

Commentator called her “a notorious homophobe”,  “an insane appointment”,  and opined: “She voted against equal age of consent. She voted against adoption equality. She wanted to maintain the fascist section 28. There are no ifs and no buts about it. Theresa May is a homophobe”. Another commentator said “May is my MP and I've actually met her. (…) The woman rejects anything that doesn't fit in her narrow-minded view of the world.”

Many asked for her to be interviewed by the gay media about her commitment to equality and if there has been a change of mind since the last few years. If one wants to take the initiative, she can be reached at mayt@parliament.uk or via her website’s contact form

Her voting record (source):

1998: Reduce age of consent for homosexual acts to 16 (equalise with straight sex): NO

1999: Reduce legal age for anal intercourse (straight or gay): NO (twice that year)

2000: Prohibit promotion of homosexuality in schools: YES

2001: Allow same-sex couples to adopt: NO (again in 2002)

2002: Allow unmarried gay or straight couples to adopt: NO

2008: Fertility treatment for same-sex couples: NO (twice)

12 May 2010

Cameron gives a damn about gay Britons

Campaigners gather for 'David Cameron's coming out party' David Cameron has been elected the new Prime Minister for Britain.  What that means for LGBT people is anything but certain. During the election campaign, it felt like Cameron had a hard job trying to woo some gay voters since nowadays, no major party can afford not to be somewhat for gay rights. His attempts, however, surfaced hypocrisies.

He pledged to “consider” allowing  gay marriage in interviews with pink papers, then later said on TV that he is “not planning” on renaming civil partnerships. http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2010/05/04/david-cameron-not-planning-to-legalise-gay-marriage/

Let’s face it, we do not live in a fairy tale world. Of course we know that there are homophobes out there. One of them is Conservative candidate Philippa Stroud, who founded a church that seeks to ‘heal’ gays and ‘free them’ from demons. After the press got to wind of that, Cameron was quick to defend her as “not homophobic” and said “she believes in gay equality”. How idiotic is he? Does Cameron think we are that stupid? Maybe she believes in equality for gays as long as they turn straight, ex-gay equality.

The following incident, however, shows most obviously how Cameron firstly, FEIGNS support to gays, thirdly HAS NO IDEA about gay concerns and thirdly, DOESN’T REALLY CARE EITHER. During the following interview when questioned about gay rights, he seemed clueless until he finally asked the camera to be switched off!

Watch the video “David Cameron stumbles through interview on gay rights” on guardian.co.uk.

David Cameron’s voting record shows he voted to restrict marriage and adoption to straight couples (2002) and voted against repealing Section 28 which forbade “promotion of homosexuality” (2003). he now suddenly believes in the right to adopt for same-sex couples.

23 Apr 2010

Would protecting sexual minorities hinder integration of Muslims?

Germany’s constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex & gender, race, mother tongue, country or culture of origin, disability, religion and religious or political opinion. Since a few years, activist tried to add “sexual identity” to the list to further combat discrimination of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Germany. After several high-ranking politicians and even a few states supported the measure, the parliament took up the debate and asked nine experts to present their findings on possible implications of the proposed law.

The voiced concerns were altogether opposing and are furthermore nothing short of the ridiculousness we are used to hear from right-wing conservatives in the US:

Winfried Kluth from the University Halle-Wittenberg argued that protecting LGBTs “would prevent Muslim immigrants from accepting our constitution”. Neutralising involved declaring that one believes in the German constitution. Mr Kluths argument implies demanding the acceptance of gender equality from German Muslims is ok, but to not discriminate gays would be too much to ask for. It would be more important to make it easy for new German citizens to identify with the constitution than promoting acceptance of LGBTs.

Professor Bernd Grzeszick form the University of Heidelberg said the proposed addition to the constitution would lead to the legalisation of polygamy because protecting “bisexuality and other forms of multiple-partner unions” could imply the legalisation of bigamy in the least.

In the parliamentary hearing, several of the appointed experts seemed to warn of the dangers of paedophilia approaching Germany. Klaus Gärditz of University of Bonn argued that “paedophilia, sodomy and sadomasochism” could be interpreted as one of these sexual identities.

The measure was proposed by the socialist party (SPD), the Greens and Leftist Coalition (Linkspartei). Germany’s most outspoken gay politician, Volker Beck (Greens) said: “The current government wants to continue to discriminate and treat LGBTs as second-class citizens. Our constitution protects minorities from arbitrary decisions of a majority and gays and lesbians should have this protection as well.”

At the current situation it seems unlikely that the change will happen. Both coalition parties, Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Liberal Democrats (FDP) that make up the current government reject the measure. A two-third majority is needed in the parliament to change the constitution.

The Liberals usually claim to be gay-friendly, but are known to put their business-emphasis first as they opposed many regulations, including non-discrimination acts, to be “forced upon the economy”. Although Germany’s current foreign minister Guido Westerwelle is confidently out gay (See Germany: New government, new hope?), his party is yet to prove their true commitment to gay rights.

4 Mar 2010

UK: The fear of gay weddings

The difference
Some would think Britain is one of the most progressive countries when it comes to civil rights. Yet, gays and lesbians were until now not able to get hitched in a church or religious building and any religious language or even music was banned from the civil registry office where these strictly “civil partnerships” are made.
Fortunately, this ban is now as good as lifted with the House of Lords agreeing on an amendment to the Equality Bill which would make it possible for religious organisations to host civil partnership ceremonies. Among these that are ready to do that are Unitarians, Quakers (See “Quakers welcome debate on equality”), Metropolitan Community Churches, Liberal Jewish synagogues and some Anglican churches might follow in near future.

Why no marriage?
In my understanding, this is a good step, but a better step would have been allowing same-sex marriage altogether. Yet this is exactly what some forces fight against and are scared of in the United Kingdom.

It’s not the same!
The Bishop of Bradford warned that the change risked equating civil partnerships with marriage:
"The fundamental difficulty (…) is that we (…) have been quite clear ever since civil partnerships were introduced that they are not the same as marriage.”
Thanks you for proving us a point, Mr Bishop, in the debate of why the government should change the unequal and discriminatory  institution of civil partnerships. (See also: “Marriage Equality for the UK”)

So far, opponents of this have argued that civil partnerships are adequate enough and marriage should be preserved for union between a  man and a women only.

Homophobes are scared
Christian Today had a headline entitles “Fears for churches and status of marriage

The Religion Correspondent of The Times, Ms Gledhill wrote a comment entitled “Bishop of Winchester slams gay marriage in church ‘fudge’” and quotes someone saying:

“I believe it does further fudge the line between civil partnerships and marriage. That is shown by some newspapers which simply speak of gay marriages in church.”

Face the reality!
So newspapers already speak of "gay marriages"? Oh my!
Yes, Ms Gledhill or whoever made that comment, here is a bit of a reality dose for you:  Do you really think people in civil partnerships refer to their love as "civil partner" among their colleagues? Do you think they tell people that they are "civilly partnered"? Do you think their personal banker, the call-agent from BT or anyone makes a fuss to refer them as "civil partners"?
No! It's a formality being upheld only in the books to not upset religious nuts like you. The majority of the population (61% support gay marriage) has long understood that there is no difference between gay or straight relationships and the apartheid system of civil partnerships is a farce and a mockery of civil rights that is hopefully soon to end.

Several newspaper articles today again showed that so many religious leaders are simply all through homophobic in the sense that they literally FEAR gays and lesbians and they want to fight for their right to discriminate. Hopefully, this injustice will end soon. May God help them to learn to love all of his children.

19 Feb 2010

Ugandan gay man flees to the UK


bosco John Bosco told his story at the LGBT Rights in Africa event at SOAS. He realised he is “gay” by the age of 18. He only knew what “gay” meant from the taunts of fellow pupils. He didn’t come out in fear of arrest, but he couldn’t control the feelings that he felt.

“Nobody wants to be gay in Uganda but you are what you are.”

A gay bar he visited was raided in 2001. He escaped police, yet people tracked his home down where his brother was taken and questioned about John, who wasn’t there. His brother didn’t know of his whereabouts and was beaten and ultimately killed.

Bosco then sought asylum in the UK in September that year and went through immigration hell in inhumane detention centres. Freed later, he had to report to the police daily. After his asylum appeal was rejected several times over the next years he returned to a detention centre and was then forcefully put on a flight back to Uganda in 2008. He told the immigration officers that he would be killed but they said “We told the Ugandan officials nothing”, suggesting that if he keeps quiet, he will be fine. 

Yet nothing was fine as the police in Uganda was aware of his identify from the bar raid seven years ago. Since being gay is illegal, he had to bribe his way to freedom coming out of the airport with 500£. People said, he would want to be gay so he could come to the UK and this shows how homosexuality is perceived as something foreign that doesn’t naturally happen in Africa.
He flew back to the UK and but was held in the detention centre again until finally his asylum was granted in May 2009.

Bosco said even the Home Office in Britain treats you differently as a gay. He was asked for example to prove that he would be gay while applying for asylum. He was told if they allowed him in, “all gays from Uganda would come”. “Many solicitors on top are also reluctant to take up cases of gay refugees”, he said.

More on John’s case on Gays Without Borders

LGBT Rights in Africa

Last week, my University (SOAS, University of London) held a discussion about LGBT rights in Africa. Invited were SOAS lecturer Marica Moscati (preparing her PhD on same-sex marriage), a spokesperson for Amnesty International, John Bosco (a Ugandan refugee) and a Skye (Zimbabwean gay rights activist).

One against the stream
Moscati gave a quick picture of what gay rights in Africa looked like and showed a diverse picture from several nations punishing homosexuality with the death penalty or prison to one extreme opposite, South Africa. It gay-marriage_USprohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation since 1996 and legalised same-sex marriages ten years after that . Seen in many western nations as one of the last legal steps to full equality, same-sex marriage was a very early change for better in South Africa. The equal marriage law “serves as a strong example for equality” and as an orientation point for South African society that largely still is as homophobic as it’s neighbours.

South Africa learnt from it’s divisive past and so did Rwanda that decided not to criminalise homosexuality in 2009. Rwanda experienced similar race relation problems as South Africa did. Today, 56.3% of parliamentarians are women, Zimbabwean gay rights activist Skye Chirape pointed out and argued it would have been a major factor for this decision as women are “more compassionate”. “If women were to seize their rightful share of governance, gays will be better off, too”.

LGBTAfrica Homosexuality – a Western import?
A member from the audience tried to contravene with an often heard statement: “Homosexuality is against African values” and the West would be pushing their ideas onto the continent. He was swiftly dismissed by the panellists: “What is African culture?” Moscati asked back and waited for a reply. “What is African culture?” she repeated after a few seconds of silence and then went on:

“Culture is not something fixed or written somewhere on a pillar. It’s something changeable. We can improve culture! We shouldn’t avoid reality just because it has mostly been done that way in the past.”

In fact, this accusation is quite ironic as it were the European colonialists who brought the anti-sodomy laws to the rest of the world in the first place. “There were lesbian relationships with legal implications in some ancient African tribal communities” said Moscati. Of course Africa also knew discrimination and resentments. Amplified homophobia yet is a Western import.

No coming out, no rights
As for nowadays, Skye mentioned that in Zimbabwe, the punishment for homosexuality is 10 years in prison “… if you’re lucky to come out alive”. She also emphasised that there are as many LGBTs in Africa as elsewhere, but “reports are oppressed by governments“ and almost all gays and lesbians are “too scared to come out”.
This, however, is crucial to be able to fight fully for rights. Some say, gays and lesbians should be careful and see how change comes along before risking their lives. Yet how can people be treated equally if Africa is unaware of their existence? How can they achieve justice if the handful of gay activists are branded as tainted by Western influence? It requires courage and may be daring, but otherwise the lives of gays in Africa will continue to be made miserable.

See my next post for Ugandan John Bosco’s story

18 Jan 2010

To gay marriage opponents, it’s not about marriage

A bill is being considered again by Hawaiian legislators to  provide same-sex couples with a possibility to form civil unions.
A civil union, like the name suggests, are basically modelled after marriages yet aim to keep out religion, making it purely ‘civil’. That’s because marriage used to be a religious affair, like it’s still in Israel for example, where only religious bodies can marry people. And since religion is having a hard time accepting same-sex couples, many Christians feel they need to ‘preserve’ marriage for man and women. The civil unions concept was created as a compromise for equal treatment-seeking gay & lesbian couples to provide them with the now larger set of political rights.

nocivilunionIt’s not about marriage
This very bill is being protested against by thousands of Christians now, holding up signs like “No Unions – No Marriage”, “1 Man + 1 Woman”. See the video here

In the past, conservatives protested when gays sought the access to marriage, claiming they would “redefine” and “attack” a tradition. Now, civil unions never existed before, but these people are still against it. This shows that gay marriage opponents do not simply care about how marriage is preserved for them only, but that they are bothered and disgusted by gay people living together at all.

Why secularism is important

The bill has been defeated several times before which was seen as a succeeding of strong protest previously. These protesters are a group of people that seek to impose their view onto others. If anti-gays form exclusive groups in the form of a church, that is legally indisputable. Secularism – separation of church and state – fails when a religious group succeeds in taking away government recognition of certain people outside their church and religiously formed ideas.
I am a Christian myself. I have strong beliefs, but I do not turn to the government to impose these beliefs onto others. If there was secularism in Islamic states, Christians wouldn’t have to complain about persecution and mistreatment in these countries. Yet the same happens there. The Muslim majority imposes their views via laws onto differently believing people.

13 Jan 2010

Marriage Equality for the UK

gay-marriage-map-europeCurrently, eight countries and several jurisdictions in the world allow same-sex marriage. These are Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, a handful of US States and Mexico City.

As I wrote earlier, there is also a campaign to bring gay marriage finally to the UK, but mostly it’s focused in Scotland. www.equalmarriage.org.uk started a campaign in Scotland March 2009.

Currently ‘Civil Partnerships’ are said to provide all the rights of marriage but the name to gay and lesbian couples. However, the freedom to ‘marry’ in a church or another house of worship is also not granted as there is a ban in place on this, even if the religious institution wants to. The Quakers called to end this injustice in July last year. (See also: “Why Christians should support same-sex marriage”)

Secondly, it is the concept of a separate but (yet actually not fully) equal law. One set of laws for straight couples, one for gays & lesbians. Just like there used to be different set of laws for blacks and whites in South Africa or the US. Separate but equal is not equal and this is why we have to stand up for equal treatment now more than ever as the parliament discusses the Equality Bill.

For all UK residents, please write to your local MP about this injustice or copy & paste the following into an email from on findyourmp.parliament.uk :

Dear MP,

I note that Lord Alli has tabled an amendment to the Equality Bill on
allowing religious civil partnerships, and I write on this matter.

Although this would correct a major problem in the Civil Partnership
act, that it ignored religious same-sex couples, if this were to go
through, it still leaves a major problem with the system of
relationship registration in Britain.

There exists one relationship registration system for same-sex couples,
and another for opposite sex couples. These systems, though designed to
look alike, are different, and therefore I believe they are unequal and

Using another word may seem like an easy answer to equality, but it
deprives same-sex couples of the terminology of love, refuses them the
fullest blessing from the state of their relationship and denies them
the respect from society and the community that marriage automatically

Even if my partner and I were to go abroad to a nation that did
recognise same-sex marriages and marry there, as soon as we got back to
Britain it is relegated to a civil partnership.

I would like to see an amendment tabled that allowed same-sex couples
to have a civil marriage, or a religious marriage if that particular
religion allowed it (such as Quakers, Liberal Jews, or the Metropolitan
Community Church). Equal rights, I believe, must mean that straight and
gay are treated the same, ruled over the same laws, and judged by the
same standard.

Civil Partnerships were of course a significant step forward, but
rather than making a separate system more like the thing it is trying
to emulate through this amendment, same-sex couples in Britain should
simply be allowed the same marriage rights as all other couples in

Yours sincerely,

Your constituent.

Thanks to LGBTNetwork for this (http://www.lgbtnetwork.eu/?p=4009)