Sexual Minorities Forum

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It’s seemingly been a year of scuffles so far between the Hong Kong government and our city’s LGBT community. It started on rocky ground as religious groups rallied in protest against same-sex relationships in the SAR. Then Chief Executive CY Leung announced in his policy address that he won’t be discussing sexual minority rights issues in the next few months at least. And now relations between the authority and the gay community are being further stretched, this time with a debate over the perceived ineffectiveness of the Sexual Minorities Forum.

The SMF was set up by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau back in 2004 with the objective of discussing the concerns of the LGBT community as well as advancing gay rights. The Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation Unit is the government group in charge of running the SMF and co-ordinating meetings with its members. Unfortunately, though, the forum has only met 11 times in total, with the last meeting dating all the way back to December 2010. It is clear from the minutes at the last meeting that LGBT members requested the CMAB for three or four meetings per year. However, that never happened.
Given the infrequency of the meetings, LGBT activist groups have been trying to look for answers from the GISOU. Up until the past few months they’ve sought more meetings – and effective ones at that. But some activists claim that when they’ve approached the government they’ve been given
the run-around – or, in many cases, been given no answers at all about the future of the SMF.

The legal advisor of the Pink Alliance, attorney Michael Vidler, calls GISOU ‘completely opaque and non-transparent’.
“We aren’t sure who’s in the unit – but we do know that they are failing at their duties,” he says. “The minutes from the 2010 meeting haven’t even been posted yet.” Since speaking with Vilder, GISOU had posted the December 2010 minutes only on March 8.

Chairman of the Pink Alliance, Reggie Ho, calls the SMF ‘a clever mechanism that the government put in place to make it seem like it’s doing something for gay rights but in reality they aren’t doing anything at all’. “Taxpayers should be upset at this as well,” says Ho. “There are people on SMF’s payroll getting a salary for doing nothing.”
Gay campaigners wanted answers. But after answers were not forthcoming, many campaigners decided that they needed to take their protest to another level. On Friday March 15, LGBT community leaders met at a press conference to announce their withdrawal from the SMF. Along with Ho and Vidler, Joanne Leung of the Transgender Resource Centre, Pastor Wong of the Blessed Minority Christian Fellowship, Dick van der Tak of AIDS Concern and Mimi Wong of Dark Angels Production proclaimed their outrage against the government group. As of now, 21 groups have withdrawn from the SMF, many claiming that it’s been of no use in addressing gay rights concerns. Some say it’s actually been a tool to stall any discussions on the subject. “We feel that these measures that the government have set as an alternative to legislation have failed,” says Vidler. “Not only have they failed, they also pose as obstacles. For example, when we approached the Education Bureau to address school bullying against gay students, they told us it’s an SMF issue. We’re getting stonewalled.”

So which organisations, as of now, remain on the SMF? There’s still a few – but most seem to be groups which oppose gay rights to some degree. Or, at least, have differing views to many of the groups who are campaigning for gay rights – who have now left in the mass exodus. One remaining group is The New Creation Association – known for its stance against homosexuality and its belief in ‘reparative therapy’. People in the LGBT community believe the SMF is increasingly proving to be an ineffective government initiative. We approached GISOU for a few answers ourselves, but they hadn’t got back to us by the time this article went to print. We await their reply.

What next, then? It seems the complaints against the SMF don’t end in Hong Kong. The Pink Alliance has sent a representative to Geneva along with a drafted report to appeal to the 107th session of the UN Human Rights Committee, which started on March 11 and continues till March 28. The detailed report, drafted by the Pink Alliance, points out every area that it believes the Hong Kong government and the SMF neglects when it comes to addressing LGBT rights and discrimination. Vidler says: “We’re not only trying to address LGBT issues on a local level but also on an international one. Hopefully the Human Rights Committee will see our report and the Hong Kong government will be exposed for insufficiently addressing the needs of its LGBT citizens. Next, we wait and highlight the UN’s conclusion.”
The coming months are to be busy for LGBT activists as they attempt to put more pressure on Hong Kong’s government – as well as internationally. And we’ll see what happens with the SMF too. Watch this space…  Arthur Tam

Sexual Minorities Forum
bit.ly/sexualminoritiesforum.

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