Leading Sex and Gender Stories of 2012

Since 2008, the Sex and Gender Institute at Beijing Forestry University (Beijing Linye daxue xing yu xingbie yanjiusuo 北京林业大学性与性别研究所) has published an annual list of the Ten Biggest Sex and Gender Stories in China (Niandu shi da xing yu xingbie shijian 年度十大性与性别事件). The following is a translation of the 2012 list:

Thirty-eight-year-old Master’s Degree Holder Promotes Chastity

In February 2012, Tu Shiyou from Wuhan University started a blog advocating premarital chastity and proclaimed that she herself was still a virgin (and she uploaded a medical report to her blog to prove it). This elicited many critical and satirical responses from online commentators.

Ye Haiyan. Source: Baidu Baike

Ye Haiyan.
Source: Baidu Baike

Ye Haiyan and Free Sexual Services

At the beginning of the year, Ye Haiyan — a well-known advocate for the rights of sex workers and AIDS victims — posted pictures on her Weibo account of herself, volunteering to provide free sexual services to migrant workers to focus attention on the lack of legal rights for sex workers. In response, Ye was subjected to physical abuse by locals and her place of work was attacked.

In May 2013, Ye was in the news again for mounting a protest in Hainan against the sexual abuse of schoolgirls there by their principal by uploading photos of herself carrying a sign that said: ‘School principal — leave the schoolgirls alone and come to my room!’ Again, she was the victim of physical attack.

‘Gendered’ Education

In February, Zhengzhou No.18 Middle School in Henan province tested a new education method when it announced the introduction of different academic standards for ‘Masculine Boys’ and ‘Refined and Intelligent Girls’. In March, the Shanghai municipal government approved No.8 Middle School’s ‘Shanghai Senior High School Experimental Class for Boys’ with the stated goal of creating a happy environment for the cultivation of wholesome and studious male learners. Both schools reported good results in their experiments.

Under-aged Girls in Brothels

In 1997, the Criminal Law was revised so that keeping under-aged girls in brothels was specified as a crime separate from the crime of statutory rape. Various scholars have in the period since maintained that this distinction lowers the threat of punishment for criminals who keep under-age girls in brothels. In March 2012, the Vice-Chairperson of the All-China Women’s Federation (Zhonghua quanguo funü lianhehui 中华妇女联合会), Zhen Yan, stated that the law does not adequately protect minors, and called for the law to be repealed.

Suicide of a Gay Man’s Wife

In June, a woman named Hong Lingcong jumped to her death from a building after her husband admitted to her on Weibo that he was gay. This case ignited heated debate within the gay community regarding marriage: many gay men and lesbian women end up in a loveless heterosexual marriage in order to please their families.

A female protester holding a placard reading ‘I may be flirtatious, but you shouldn’t harass me’. Source: Sohu.com

A female protester holding a placard reading ‘I may be flirtatious, but you shouldn’t harass me’.
Source: Sohu.com

‘I May be Flirtatious, but You Shouldn’t Harass Me’

In June, an official working on the Shanghai subway posted an image on Weibo showing the back of a woman wearing a see-through top. Professing his good intentions, the official reminded women not to invite sexual harassment by dressing provocatively. A few days later, two women launched a protest by carrying posters in the subway with the words ‘I may be flirtatious, but you shouldn’t harass me’ (Wo keyi sao, ni buneng rao 我可以骚,你不能扰), saying that they had the right to dress in revealing clothes without the threat of being harassed or abused on the subway or, for that matter, anywhere else.

Eighty-four-year-old Transgender Woman Steps Out of the Closet

In June, an eighty four-year-old transgender woman in Guangdong province named Qian Jinfan stepped into the limelight by accepting an invitation to be interviewed by a journalist. Qian intended to challenge the prejudices held in society against the transgendered. She has not had a sex change operation but dresses and self-identifies as a woman.

The Fight Against Sexual Violence

During a ‘Global Campaign Against Sexual Violence Towards Women’ in November and December 2012, the UN Population Fund’s representative office in China ran a concurrent online campaign urging men to pledge to oppose sexual violence against women. During the sixteen-day campaign, 351 men signed up to the pledge.

Online ‘Pornographic Anti-corruption’ Cases

During 2012, pornographic images and videos of officials were regularly exposed online, and punishment meted out to the people involved. Such cases have seen an official at a university expelled from the Party in August, another official at a university fired from his position in November and, that same month, an official in Chongqing was relieved of his position.

Women shave their heads to protest gender biased examination policy. Source: Chinese Internet Forum

Women shave their heads to protest gender biased examination policy.
Source: Chinese Internet Forum

Activities of Feminists
2012 was a year of increased feminist protests in China. These included:

  • In February, a number of women launched ‘Occupy Male Restrooms’
  • In April, female students at Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou sent a letter to 500 companies protesting against gender discrimination in recruitment
  • In August, women shaved their heads to express their dissatisfaction with the Ministry of Education over gender discrimination in college entrance exams
  • In November, women posted bare-breasted pictures of themselves online to show their support for the enactment of laws governing domestic violence
  • In December, women in Guangzhou put on red wedding dresses to protest against domestic violence.
Women protesters outside a men’s restroom. Source: Mop.com

Women protesters outside a men’s restroom.
Source: Mop.com