Date: 10am, Dec. 28, 2002
Place: Hakka Cultural Center, Taipei
Organized by the following marginal sex rights groups:
Gender/Sexuality Rights Association, Taiwan (human rights/sex rights group)
Collective Of Sex Workers And Supporters, COSWAS (prostitutes rights group)
Taiwan TG Butterfly Garden (transgender rights group)
Gay Hotline (lesbian and gay rights group)
Ten Worst Cases of Sex Rights Violations as chosen by the groups:
1. Supreme Court decrees that adultery is punishable by criminal law: On Dec. 27, 2002 the Supreme Court Judges decreed that infringement of sexual freedom is necessary in order to maintain stability of the marriage system, so adultery cases are still to be considered punishable by criminal law. Marginal sex rights groups hold that the Supreme Court ruling condones the sentiments of hatred and revenge in dysfunctional marriages and encourages married women to become sex vigilantes. Marginal sex rights groups affirm that they will continue with their long-term fight to decriminalize extra-marital sexual relationships.
2. Tao-yuan County orders betel nut girls to obey dress codes: Despite the overall increasingly revealing fashion trends, Tao-yuan county government orders betel nut girls (girls who work at betel nut drive-by stands) to obey the dress codes of not exposing any part of their breasts, belly buttons, and buttocks beginning Oct. 15. Marginal sex rights groups state that existing laws have already set boundaries on degrees of obscenity allowable by law, and that there should be no extra demands on betel nut girl outfits. The special administrative order against betel nuts girls is an obvious demonstration of class-based discrimination against sexual expression among working class girls who serve a working class clientele.
3. The police have been vigorously entrapping those who post sexually-oriented messages on the internet: For a whole year police force around the island, taking advantage of a youth-oriented protectionist by-law urged into place by state feminists, targeted postings of sexual messages on the internet, accusing the authors (irrespective of their age or gender or sexual orientation) of attempting to negotiate sexual transactions over the internet. That specific law says such offences are subject to five years of imprisonment. Marginal sex rights groups hold that such a law and such police conduct violate our basic human right to freedom of (sexual) expression and association, and is nothing but a desperate measure to control a new communications medium that has opened up new opportunities for inter-personal contact.
4. Condoms are being used as evidence for sexual transaction by the police: Aids activists are calling for a decriminalization of condoms because the police have been using the presence of condoms as criminal evidence in cases that involve either sex trade or adultery. Marginal sex rights groups hold that such practices discourage condom use and pose serious threats to the safety and health of sexual minorities and the general public as well. Instead of being used as incriminating evidence, condoms should be actively provided at various locations, esp. at hotels or saunas so as to promote the habit of practicing safe sex.
5. Police have been accused of extortion by street-walking prostitutes: In Sept. six street walking prostitutes, with the help of prostitutes rights group, told the press about the extortions they have suffered in the hands of a local police officer in Taipei. Marginal sex rights groups hold that street-walkers are the lowest rank of sex workers, and in such times of economic difficulties, they are most vulnerable to all forms of extortion and stigma, considering their illegal status. Marginal sex rights groups thus call on the prosecutor¡¦s office to clean up the police and protect the rights of street-walking prostitutes.
6. The differently-gendered are denied the right to use gender non-conforming photos when applying for identification cards: In July, one brave transgendered person came forth to petition to the President¡¦s office and ask that all citizens be allowed to used photos that reflect their real selves on their id cards. Marginal sex rights groups hold that the transgendered often suffer unnecessary harassment or interrogations when applying for or using identity documents due to the gender non-conformity demonstrated in their recent photos. Marginal sex rights groups call on the government to respect gender nonconformity as part of an individual¡¦s right to self-expression.
7. Media-police complicity invaded the privacy of trans people: In August, Taipei police, while checking identity cards of drivers, found a long-haired woman with a false female id who turned out to be an intersexual man. The media were notified and had a field day shooting the transgendered person as the newest spectacle, eventually forcing the person to choose to go through sex reassignment surgery without much preparation and under great financial pressure. Marginal sex rights groups hold that the police and the media are complicit in violating the basic right to privacy of the transgendered and that all such complicity should stop.
8. Stigma and prejudice corner the transgendered, even forcing them to commit suicide: In September, a college law graduate jumped from his 12th floor home after been jeered by his father and his niece about not being able to find and hold a job after graduation because of his transgender identity. Marginal sex rights group state that stigma and prejudice often make it extremely difficult for the transgenderd to maintain a basic and regular life. Discrimination at work is rampant, and oppression is often carried out in the most self-righteous way. Marginal sex rights groups call on the society as a whole to recognize such invisible powers of social oppression and to put a stop to stigma and discrimation against trans people.
9. The Defense Ministry and the Education Ministry both discriminate against gays: In May, gay rights groups gathered in front of the Defense Ministry to deliver their protest in response to the Ministry¡¦s policy of not recruiting gays to serve in the military police. Faced with the protest, the Military Police Headquarters promise they would reconsider this policy in the future. In the meantime, the Education Ministry lists cases of drug use, manic depression, and homosexuality as problems to be reported to the Ministry when college graduates serve their terms of substitute military service. Marginal sex rights groups hold that such measures of isolating and highlighting gays as probable cause of discrimination constitute serious violations of gay civil rights.
10. Gay marriages are yet to be recognized as legal: The first open marriage of a lesbian couple in Taiwan in November highlights again the question of legal marriage rights for gays and lesbians. The bridegroom wishes to adopt the bride¡¦s son from her former marriage as legal son, but the registration office turned down the application on the grounds that ¡§gays are perverted minorities and are joined by their lust, against our good social customs.¡¨ Marginal sex rights groups hold that gays and lesbians are still discriminated in regard to their civil rights and vow that they will continue to fights for the passing of the ¡§By-Laws for the Protection of Human Rights.¡¨
(translated by Josephine Ho)
Comments by Josephine Ho, Professor and Coordinator, Center for the Study of Sexualities, National Central University
On the surface, these ten cases of sex rights violations chosen by four different marginal groups seem to focus on very different subjects and concerns, yet it is through the varied angles and horizons, through the pain and suffering involved in each case, that we come to realize the broad complexities of sex rights and the multiplicities of sexual subjects.
The efforts of the four marginal sex rights groups are especially commendable because they not only describe each individual incident and the dimension of human rights violations involved, but also reveal the huge number of marginal populations being affected. Furthermore, the report brought home to us the perennial point that the stigma surrounding sex is so corrosive and so damaging that many sexually marginal subjects, even with their basic human rights violated, could not find the power to fight back, not even the right language to describe their predicament. That makes today¡¦s report all the more important. And the direct action drama of breaking through the barriers of discrimination that we witnessed a moment ago (see picture) embodied such as a protest.
I would like to point especially to the conspicuous role played by the media, the police, and the law in these incidents. When we talk about human rights, we often rely upon the law to defend these rights, the police to enforce these rights, and the media to expose any abuses of these rights. In other words, the media, the police, and the law are important forces in upholding human rights. Yet, as we face the question of ¡§sex rights as human rights,¡¨ we find that the media, the police, and the law are often exactly the forces that violate sex rights, as evidenced by these ten incidents. In the past, when we heard about sexual violations, we thought about the few bad people who molested or raped their victims. But today¡¦s ten incidents teach us that there are massive, structural, institutional forces that violate our sex rights, and they come from none other than the media, the police, and the law. Faced with such massive public powers, the minute existence of the individual seems so powerless and helpless. This realization makes those efforts all the more respectable when a few brave souls rise to protest such abuses of power.
This press conference reiterates the importance of the concept that ¡§Sex Rights Are Human Rights,¡¨ a concept that had been stated time and again by the International Action Forum of Sex Work and Sex Workers Rights organized by local prostitute¡¦s rights group for the past three years as well as by the Gay Forum held by Taipei¡¦s gay groups for the past two years. Yet we still feel today the pressing need for understanding this sentence. For among all the rights to be nourished by our society, to be protected by our laws, to be respected by all, those related to ¡§sex¡¨ are still widely ignored or overlooked.
The concept of human rights is a concept developed in history. We used to think human rights are political rights, the right to participate in politics, to declare political dissidence. Then we learned that human rights are also economic rights, that is, the right to employment, promotions, benefits, etc. Along with various social changes and the emergence of various subjects in protest, we begin to realize that the concept of human rights includes its developing dimensions of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, sex work, transgenderedness, etc. New subjects continue to emerge, challenging unrecognized forms and areas of oppression, broadening our understanding of human rights while exploring the varied faces of ¡§humanity.¡¨
Today, these four marginal groups have again brought forth the basic concept of ¡§Sex Rights are Human Rights¡¨ to remind those that may still harbour narrow views of human rights:
Do not overlook or slight the oppression suffered by others.
Do not problematize other¡¦s lifestyles or their structures of feelings simply because you do not feel the same needs or suffer the same inconveniences.
The ignorance and fear surrounding sex have created endless lists of prejudice and feelings of disgust that cut us off from recognizing the diversity among us. Judging from the
wide-spreadness of such ignorance and unfeeling, ¡§Sex rights are Human Rights¡¨ is a lesson that still desperately needs to be learned by all.