Gay rights campaigners give up on forum flop

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 March, 2013, 6:36am

Gay rights activists are boycotting a government initiative that they say has done nothing to help their cause since it was launched more than eight years ago and is merely being used as a delaying tactic.

The Sexual Minorities Forum - which was set up by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau in September 2004 specifically to advance gay rights - has only met 11 times. The last time was more than two years ago and no new meetings have been arranged.

The bureau has also opened the forum to groups like the New Creation Association, which believes homosexuals can change their sexual orientation through counselling. Their inclusion had cost the forum its credibility, said lawyer Michael Vidler, legal adviser to Pink Alliance, a network of groups championing rights for sexual minorities.

More than 20 groups are boycotting the forum, including the International Social Service, Queer Sisters and Transgender Equality and Acceptance Movement. They claim it has been hijacked as a delaying tactic for any meaningful debate.

"As it stands, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex organisations are saying enough is enough," said Vidler.

The mass rejection comes despite momentum that built up late last year for consultation to introduce laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation, prompted by former Equal Opportunities Commission chairman Lam Woon-Kwong.

But in his January policy address, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said there would be no consultation on the matter, because society was still divided on the issue and more urgent livelihood issues required attention.

Vidler said: "This is a protest and ties in with the general discontent that the government is stepping back from Lam's position. The government is not even willing to have a conversation about it, even though a forum was set up to do so."

He added: "The forum's last meeting was [in December 2010] and there's no meeting set for the near future."

A spokeswoman for the bureau would not say why a date for the next meeting had not been set and was vague on the future of the forum. "Discussion at the [Sexual Minorities Forum] or other forums are options being considered," she said.

Vidler voiced concern, too, over the choice of words used by Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, who was appointed Equal Opportunities Commission chief just days ago. He referred to an alternative sexual orientation as neither an "illness" nor an "abnormality".

"Why would you use that terminology?" Vidler asked.