The Hong Kong government is known for being unsympathetic to LGBTI equality.
From the QT case to the Angus Leung case, what we have seen is a government fighting tooth and nail to prevent LGBTI individuals from enjoying equal rights before the law.
As such, it is particularly galling for the government to claim in the Hong Kong section of the national report to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that it “continues to promote equal opportunities for persons with different sexual orientation and transgender persons, with a view to nurturing the culture and values of inclusiveness and mutual respect in the community.”
That is utterly misleading.
But it is not too late for the government to demonstrate to society and the international community that it is serious about eradicating discrimination against LGBTI people.
To begin with, the government should immediately start working with the LGBTI community and other stakeholders to come up with a solid framework for enacting a sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination (SOGI) ordinance.
Education is simply not enough; we need a law – as an expressed voice of society – that discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity and intersex status will not be tolerated.
The government should stop tiptoeing around SOGI legislation, as recent surveys have shown that the public is warm to the idea. And we would like to remind the government that their job is to promote the greater interest of society, not the interest of zealots or religious bigots.
On the issue of recognition of same-sex relationships, the government should recognise that in jurisdictions where same-sex relationships are legally recognised, the sky hasn’t fallen, and the institution of marriage remains strong.
If the formulation of public policy is based on rationality, then it should start working with stakeholders to come up with ways to recognise same-sex relationships, which are as loving, caring and serious as straight relationships.
Hong Kong desperately needs a self-declaration gender recognition scheme to address the needs of our transgender citizens. It is simply unconscionable that transgender individuals have to undergo invasive and medically unnecessary procedures in order to live a life that conforms to their confirmed gender.
While in some cases, gender-conforming procedures are useful, we shouldn’t impose a one-size-fits-all solution on all transgender people. Instead, we should respect their bodily autonomy, and let them decide the best course of action for themselves.
The current system that requires mandatory sex-reassignment surgery is simply inhumane and amounts to torture.
As far as intersex people are concerned, the current practice of asking parents to decide the gender for their intersex children (with the implication of subjecting intersex children to invasive surgeries) is outrageous.
It causes unnecessary mental stress and physical harm to these children and their families. We call upon the government to respect the bodily integrity of these children and let them make an informed decision about their gender and what, if any, surgery they wish to undergo once they have reached the age of majority.
The upcoming UPR session on China in Geneva on November 6, 2018, provides a good opportunity for the Hong Kong government to demonstrate how serious its commitment is to promoting equal opportunities for the city’s LGBTI individuals.
We are members of the Hong Kong UPR Coalition which has made over 100 human rights-related recommendations, including specific recommendations on LGBTI rights.
Hong Kong’s civil society is eager to work with the government to build a more equal society for all. The ball is now in the government’s court.