CAIXINMEDIA

China Asks If Group Sex Is A Threat To Public Order

In China, a lawmaker has proposed making group sex for gays illegal. It already is for heterosexuals. Thoughts the government's role in the bedroom (even if it's crowded).

So-called "barber shop girls" in Shenzhen
So-called "barber shop girls" in Shenzhen
Li Yinhe*

-OpEd-

BEIJING — During the current lianghui, the annual two-week legislative and advisory meetings held in China every March, one legislator proposed punishing homosexuals with the crime of "mob sexual immorality," something that until now has only applied to heterosexuals.

The crime of "mob sexual immorality" has evolved over time. Before China abolished the crime of "hooliganism" in 1997, all extra-marital sex was punished and treated as such. Since its nullification, the penal code no longer prohibits consensual sex outside of wedlock, with one exception: sexual behavior involving three or more people.

I am personally convinced that consenting sex between adults, no matter how many people it involves, is a constitutional right. There's no reason that such an act should be criminally punished because there is no victim among consenting parties.

Those who are vocally against promiscuity tend to argue that group sex could harm public order and society's morals, even if there's no victim.

Monogamy is definitely a good custom, or it wouldn't be globally prevalent. But it's worth noting that Chinese tradition wasn't always monogamous, but instead a polygamous concubine system.

The extrapolated logic of regarding someone who eschews social norms as a criminal — and social custom as the victim — can cause serious problems. For instance, the majority of Chinese people get married while a small minority stay single. But we obviously can't take these single people to court and charge them with breaching social custom.

Certain people worry that once group sex is no longer a crime, more people will engage in it and the social ethos will deteriorate. Punishing people for having group sex is akin to penalizing extramarital sexual relations as hooliganism. During that period, a woman could be found guilty of "having seduced several men to have messy sexual relations with her." Clearly an absurdity.

In 1997, China proceeded with major changes by abolishing hooliganism as well as "counter-revolutionary crime." Has nullifying these two crimes boosted the number of hooligans and counter-revolutionaries? And should we reinstate these two penalties in accordance with the logic that these two crimes might increase?

Even if group sex happens does happen more, it won't affect public order for the simple reason that such activities are normally conducted privately, unseen and unknown except by the involved parties.

As a matter of fact, my research suggests there's a significant amount of group sex already in China. There are a number of partner-swapping websites where enrollment numbers are in the hundreds of thousands. These people enjoy themselves quietly while most Chinese people continue to choose monogamous relationships.

Even if China were to become like the Scandinavian countries where half of the population remains single, the world wouldn't be thrown into chaos. On the contrary, the good social order of Northern European countries offers a successful example of a permissive society.

The key lies in how we define our social atmosphere. It's pre-modern and outdated to define a a positive society as one where all citizens embrace wedlock and all sexuality is marital.

True societal corruption comes from crime that victimizes people: swindling, corruption, robbery, murder, rape, assault, drug dealing and gambling. So-called "mob sexual immorality" is an obsolete article of law and was a legal error to begin with. It makes absolutely no sense to expand its scope to punish consensual gay sex.

* Li Yinhe is a sociology researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Activist in front of democracy monument in Thailand.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ