Hong Kong: App to fill LGBT+ discrimination gap

Image: smartraveller.gov.au

LGBT+ people in Hong Kong can log discrimination through a new mobile app, backed by one of the city’s most prominent property heiresses, in a first for gay rights in the Chinese-ruled city.

The charity behind VoiceOut! said it was a platform for all residents to report any form of discrimination, be it due to race, disability, gender or sexual orientation.

But it said the app was especially important for LGBT+ residents, since they had no other outlet aside from court.

“Currently there is no law to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, there is no protection,” said Tino Chan, the LGBTQI programme manager at the Faith in Love Foundation, the charity behind the app.

The charity was founded by Gigi Chao, one of Asia’s most outspoken gay rights advocates, who came out after her father, a property tycoon, offered a $65 million reward to any man who could make his daughter straight.

The app was launched this week, and helps link complainants to lawyers or social workers, who can advise on their case.

The city’s equality watchdog does not handle LGBT+ matters, because it falls outside its mandate, said Chan, who hoped the app would help propel legislation to outlaw such prejudice.

“Everyone should be respected and understood,” Chan told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Hong Kong.

LGBT+ campaigners have long pushed for an anti-discrimination law in the former British colony; homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991, but same-sex marriage is illegal.

Acceptance of LGBT+ rights has risen, yet advocacy groups say gay and transgender people still face discrimination, and often come under family pressure to marry and have children.

A series of court cases in Hong Kong in recent years has produced some LGBT+ gains – be it dependant visas or spousal benefits – but at a cost.

“(Court) is really expensive and it takes a lot of time,” said Tommy Chen, founder of Rainbow Action, an LGBT+ rights group, which is not involved in the mobile app.

He said an anti-discrimination law is long overdue, and would send a strong message that prejudice is unacceptable.

A survey of 1,058 people, by the Chinese University of Hong Kong this year, showed 60% of the respondents in favour of protecting LGBT+ people and their rights.

-Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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