“Behind the closet are those wives imprisoned in an unhappy marriage...” A Chinese woman used her personal blog to describe life as the wife of a gay man, before her husband decided finally to come out.
According to a report conducted in 2005 by Liu Dalin, a prominent sexologist, 90% of Chinese homosexual and bisexual men get married. According to a conservative estimate there are more than 10 million Chinese women who are married to gay men.
But these same women will encounter a legal quagmire when they try to free themselves from an unhappy marriage by getting divorced. Last week, a national discussion was triggered on the topic after Beijing’s First Intermediate People’s Court released a study of divorce cases involving homosexuality that laid out the current predicament for this large group of women.
The report pointed out that there is no law in China today that protects the rights and interests of the heterosexual spouse of a homosexual. Judges are thus put in an awkward position when it comes to divorce cases requested by these spouses.
According to the study, this situation in China comes from the fact that homosexuality is still considered a highly sensitive topic. The majority of the public does not accept it, while conservative judges are unwilling to even acknowledge it in forms of verdicts.
“One party likes persons of the same sex while the other party likes the opposite sex. The chance for the two to have a happy marriage is doomed," says Hu Zhijun, the president of the Gay Families and Friends Association. "The wives often get extremely hurt at the disclosure of their husbands’ sexual orientation. Some of them will necessarily want to end the marriage.”
A particular suicide
The new report described four types of requests filed in this kind of divorce. Filing for divorce on the grounds that the couple's differences are irreconcilable or that the marriage was based on a fraud and is thus invalid since it began, or a request for moral damage, or a request for a larger share of the assets in case of divorce.
However, in practice, Chinese courts do not support these kinds of appeals. There was the case last year of Luo Hongling, a professor of Korean language at the Sichung University, who discovered her husband was a homosexual. This led to a serious conflict between the couple, and Luo eventually wound up killing herself.
When Luo’s parents took her husband to court, accusing him of cheating their daughter into marrying him, the court dismissed the allegation on the grounds that “There are no laws which prohibit citizens with homosexual orientation and behavior from getting married.”
According to Beijing’s First Intermediate People’s Court, case studies show the problems of divorce involving a homosexual party under the following aspects.
First, since 1990, gays and lesbians are no longer considered as psychiatric patients by the World Health Organization. Therefore, homosexuality is not statutory grounds for prohibiting them from getting married.
Second, can the heterosexual marriage of a gay man or lesbian be revoked or declared null and void at the other party’s request? The court believes that if the marriage is declared as invalid it won’t in fact necessarily be conducive to the protection of the spouse’s rights and interests. The court can put it into the category to which the article 11 of the Marriage Law can be applied and the spouse can request the court for dissolution.
Third, is it a sufficient reason for divorce for the spouse to be married to a gay or lesbian? The court holds that the alienation of mutual affection should still be the standard of judgment.
Fourth, the demand for moral compensation should not be supported because it lacks a legal basis.
Fifth, is the heterosexual spouse entitled to a bigger share of the couple’s assets in case of divorce? The court believes that since the wives are identified as the unerring parties, normally the partition of property would be “rational and reasonable” for them.
As a homosexual Hu Zhijun believes that in essence the issue concerning homosexuals’ spouses is caused by prejudice against homosexuality. Many gays or lesbians get married just to disguise themselves and avoid being subject to discrimination. Others might also get married because of a desire to have children.
Hu called on closeted gays to be courageous and embrace their sexuality. He also said they should avoid marrying a heterosexual so as not to hurt an innocent person.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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