Gender and Sexual Politics in Greater China and Singapore

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Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture

Reconstruction 15.1
Resisting and Reproducing: Reconstructing the matrix of sexual politics in Greater China and Singapore

Edited by Chiu Man-chung

From the 1980s, after the rise of postmodernism and postcolonialism, people started to understand that there are no authentic meanings of sex/uality, gender, justice and law across different cultural and legal discourses / machines. That is still the situation in this age of virtual Global-Localization and Internet; i.e. how the dynamics among the above mentioned concepts are re-constructed, inter-re-produced and mutually-manufactured in particular / singular matrices still requires meticulous investigation and detailed examination. This special issue aims to put the deliberation and discussion of sexual politics in the cultural and jurisdictional context of Greater China and Singapore, the so called 'poor little rich girls', where there are fast growing economics and financial markets, but a lack of sufficient human rights protection mechanisms and an acceptance of sexual powerless. The articles collected in this volume not only engage with sexual politics in the discourse of law, but also in a religious context and within an economic matrix.

The special issue starts with the article of Professor Huang Ying-ying of Ren Min University of China. She sets her discussion of sexual politics in Mainland China within the context of the deployment of market-based economic reforms and Open Door Policy (1970s), and argues that economic growth has brought changes in sexual desire, practices and identities in Mainland China. According to Huang, the changes have occurred on two parallel yet singular levels: on the one hand, new types of sexual politics and knowledge are reproduced, and that has brought with it an affirmative and rights-based understanding of sexuality; on the other hand, a scientific, medicalized and anti-obscenity movement was brought to Mainland China via two waves of the sexology movement that occurred respectively in the early 20th Century and in the 1980s.

The argument put forward by Huang creates the context of further discussion in relation to the legal control of sexuality in Mainland China. Professor Guo Xiao-fei of China University of Political Science and Law in his article rightly points out, from the perspective of sociology, that even though the criminal law controlling sexual offenses in Mainland China is vague and seems loose, it can still be used to suppress the sexually powerless as there is a lack of constitutional protection provided for the sexually powerless and those classified as sexual "deviants".

When comparing the criminal laws in Mainland China and Singapore, we find that, from the paradigm of critical socio-legal studies and gender / sexuality politics, they are surprisingly (or not) similar. According to Dr. Laurence Leong of Singapore National University, although Singapore, like Mainland China, is economically very prosperous and powerful, there is still a serious lack of legal protection for the LesBiGayTrans community. Through the lens of anti-discrimination, he discusses recent cases on sexual orientation discrimination, and critically explores the questions of judiciary independence and (lack of) connection between law and society in Singapore.

Hong Kong, like Singapore, was a former British Colony; but is now (since 1997) a Special Administrative Region in Mainland China. Due to the absence of universal suffrage in Hong Kong, the will and views of the majority (reflected and constituted by survey and media) become the only voice and construct the legal discourse, when it comes to legislation and human rights protection. In other words, protection of and respect for the sexual powerless, in the context of law making, becomes extremely difficult. Dr. Joseph Cho, a renowned activist, elaborates the hurdles that he faced and negotiated in the last two decades. The focus of his article is placed on the dynamics and interactions between Hong Kong hardline Christians and the parents in the discourse of education.

It is the above-mentioned machine which has created the series of reforms related to law controlling sexual assault in Hong Kong that have been proposed over the last decade. These include the establishment of sexual offence record checks, the revision of assumption about the age of male sexual capacity and a redefinition of rape. Chiu Man-chung, a consultant of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence against Women, analyses the reform proposals from the philosophical perspectives of Zizek and Deleuze and argues that unless the reforms can accommodate the multiple desires of different sexually powerless, they will be useless and meaningless. Chiu also argues that when considering and attempting to transfer / transplant foreign legal reforms and underlying theories into the Hong Kong/Chinese context (for example de-genderization and desexualization, Zizekian and Deleuzean schools of thought), assemblages of localization and infiltration cannot be ignored. Chiu therefore proposes that Daoism, a traditional Han-Chinese school of philosophy, can help in constructing the platform for a cultural / legal osmosis.

In 2013, a groundbreaking court case (W v. Registrar of Marriages) in Hong Kong signified the recognition of a transsexual's marital rights. It however seems that such legal recognition does not exist in Taiwan. Maurice Chang, the Clerk of Justices of Taiwan's Constitutional Court, argues that the transsexual's right to marriage is in fact already protected by the current Taiwanese Constitution and related interpretations offered by Taiwan's Constitutional Court. In his article, he examines the current situation relating to transsexual rights and reviews the existing legislation on gender change from the paradigms of human rights and comparative legal studies.

Discussion of gender discourse in Taiwan is not complete if we ignore the influence of the Taiwan Rail Public Event, where, – in 2012, a group of people engaged in group sex on a train. Professor Xu Ya-fei of NanHua University (Taiwan) argues that the incident signifies a new age of sexual freedom in thought and action, and sensitizes us towards the implications for police-state-like rule.

Editors Chiu and Clinton hope that the issue will also contain other submissions which will discuss the history, development and reflection of gender / sexual culture in Greater China and Singapore.

Interested parties should send further submissions to and by July 1, 2014.

Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture (ISSN: 1547-4348) is an innovative online cultural studies journal dedicated to fostering an intellectual community composed of scholars and their audience, granting them all the ability to share thoughts and opinions on the most important and influential work in contemporary interdisciplinary studies. Reconstruction publishes three Themed Issues and one Open Issue per year.

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