China’s Weibo reverses ban on ‘homosexual’ content after outcry

Microblogging sites move to create harmonious surrounding prompted protests under the hashtag #Iamgay

One of China’s largest social media sites, Sina Weibo, has reversed a ban on online content “related to homosexuality” after outcry from the country’s internet users.

On Friday, Sina Weibo said that for the next three months it would be removing comics and videos” with pornographic implications, promoting bloody violence, or related to homosexuality “. The internet company said the initiative was in an effort to” create a sunny and harmonious community surrounding” and comply with the country’s cybersecurity laws.

In response, Weibo users posted photos with their partners, comments, and rainbow emojis, accompanied by the hashtags #iamgay and #iamgaynotapervert.

A woman in Shanghai wrote in a post that received more than 55,000 likes:” I am the mother of a gay son. My son and I love our country. No matter where we go we tell others aloud and proudly that we are from China … But today … I suddenly[ find] that in this strong country, Sina Weibo is discriminating against and attacking this sex minority .”

Many quoted China’s constitution and laws about the protection of minorities. One internet user referred to article 38 of China’s constitution which maintains that the” personal dignity” of Chinese citizens is “inviolable” and that insult directed against citizens is prohibited.

Others pointed out homosexuality was decriminalised in 1997 and in 2001 removed from the government’s list of mental disorders.

Following the deluge of remarks Sina Weibo said on Monday that its campaign will no longer include lesbian content and would only focus on checking pornographic and violent material.” Thank you everyone for the discussion and your suggestions ,” it said in a statement on its microblog account.

Much of China’s LGBT community has been forced underground. Merely 15% said they had told their parents, and merely 5% had come out publicly, according to a 2016 survey from the UN. Gay conversion therapy is still used in some public hospitals and private clinics.

The online backlash to Sina Weibo’s policy is an indicator of growing acceptance and confidence of China’s gay community, according to Lu Pin, an activist and founder of the Feminist Voices blog. Vibrant lesbian communities exist in cities such as Shanghai, where rights groups have organised cruises for family members to come out to one another. Industries have been targeting the so-called pink economy of the LGBT community.

” China’s gay community continues to push through obstacles. The growth around the world in support for gay rights has also given the Chinese strength” Lu said.

China’s online space has come under increasingly tighter control. In January, authorities ordered Sina Weibo to shut several portals, as part of the government’s efforts to eliminate “vulgar” or “harmful” online content. State media said last year 128,000 websites were closed for such content.

Weibo censors began deleting posts and blocking searches related to the ban over the weekend. But Weibo users persisted. One wrote,” You don’t allow me to speak, so you think I will simply shut up? You delete my post, and you think I won’t post another? Every day you delete, we will start again .”

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