42 Years of Impactful Scholarship

Volume 41, Issue 5

LGBT Rights-Focused Legal Advocacy in China: The Promise, and Limits, of Litigation

Twenty years after the purported decriminalization of homosexuality in China, the law remains largely silent on the interaction between the LGBT community and the State. This may be about to change. In recent years a number of LGBT civil society organizations in China have embarked on a series of bold legal advocacy campaigns to promote equal rights for LGBT people. As courts have started to publish decisions in cases involving LGBT issues, these campaigns have begun to bear fruit. While the results of these interactions between LGBT communities and the State in courthouses and other legal forums have not always resulted in direct victory for equal rights, many LGBT people and allies are encouraged by both what they have (and have not) seen in these decisions. This paper will review the nature of this mixed progress for equal rights for Chinese LGBT people through a close analysis of three legal cases: 1) The first case brought against private clinics performing conversion therapy on homosexual people; 2) the first labor discrimination case brought by a transgender man; and 3) the first “open government information” and related lawsuits filed in response to homophobic content in university textbooks. This paper will assess both the underlying domestic cultural shifts and international support partially responsible for the measure of success these cases experienced, and what these outcomes may mean for the LGBT rights movement in the years to come given recent troubling political developments. By analyzing cases from different sectors, this paper will further illustrate the various strains and methods of LGBT rights activism in China today, and the limits they face within the unique constraints of the Chinese political system.

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Recommended Citation:
Siodhbhra Parkin, LGBT Rights-Focused Legal Advocacy in China: The Promise, and Limits, of Litigation, 41 Fordham Int'l L.J. 1243 (2018).