Chinese Lesbian Dating App Disappears, Sparking Fears of Discrimination

2017-05-30
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Screen grab of China's Rela dating site app.
Screen grab of China's Rela dating site app.
Rela

China appears to have shuttered the lesbian app Rela, prompting some to wonder if the move is a part of state censorship of LBGT rights following a ruling in Taiwan earlier this paving the way for same-sex marriages.

The company said in a brief statement on its official account on the social media platform Sina Weibo that it had temporarily suspended the app for "important adjustments to the service."

The app is no longer available on the iOS or Android app stores.

Weibo users hit back at the app's disappearance, although many said they believed it would make a comeback.

"Rela was the best app I have ever used," user @ataimi commented. "I will wait for it for as long as the company doesn't close down."

"The reason it has been shut down isn't necessarily because it was gay," wrote @yueguan_Sywwwww, while @jiujilanger added: "I have no words."

"I was just wondering today why I couldn't sign on," wrote @maoyihelianwu, while @Zeen1123 added, in a reference to the disapproval of lesbians by straight men in China.

"Homosexuality isn't illegal, so I don't know why they've shut Rela down, unless it's a manifestation of straight-male cancer."

And @chalegedawan added: "One day, love and equality will triumph over discrimination and oppression, as long as we keep speaking out."

Social pressure

Homosexuality was officially regarded as a mental illness in China until 2011, and LGBT people face huge social pressure to marry and have children.

Last month, China's Cyberspace Administration shuttered gay dating app Zank, saying it had broadcast "pornographic content."

A thorough investigation found that the apps failed to take responsibility for providing safe content, official media reported.

"For example, some hosts wore military uniforms or army badges, while others were scantily clad and displayed seductive behavior," according to state broadcaster CGTN.

"Some of them even spread private Wechat and QQ accounts, luring fans to engage in pornography via social platforms," it said.

U.S.-based rights activist Liu Qing said homosexuality has long been a documented part of China's history and culture.

"Homosexuality in China has generally been tolerated, compared with a lot of other places," Liu said. "But there are still a lot of people with very backward-looking, feudal attitudes in China, in spite of the scientific evidence that shows it is a natural phenomenon."

"[This leads to] a lot of deliberate discrimination against gay people, unlike in western democracies, which have generally begun to protect their rights."

'No big deal'

China's state propaganda machine last week warned the country's media not to "make a big deal" of a May 26 ruling by Taiwan's constitutional court that effectively legalized same-sex marriages in two years' time.

But rights groups welcomed the landmark ruling, and called on other governments in the region to follow suit.

In April 2016, a court in the central Chinese province of Hunan rejected a complaint filed by a gay man against the government for refusing his application to marry his male partner.

Sun Wenlin, 26, had filed the historic complaint against the Furong district civil affairs bureau in Hunan's provincial capital Changsha, after officials from the bureau refused to allow him and his partner Hu Mingliang to register their marriage there.

Reported by Xi Wang for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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