June 17, 2006

China’s first lesbian hotline to open

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's first hotline for lesbians is
set to open following the success of a service for gay men in a
country where homosexuals still face stigma and discrimination,
a local newspaper reported.

The hotlines, which operate in China's booming coastal
cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou where social change outpaces
the rest of China, are run by the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng
Foundation, which oversees AIDS-related projects.

The new line will be staffed by lesbians, just as the
volunteers for the existing one are all gay men, said one of
the hotline's counselors, adding that the organization had had
trouble recruiting enough qualified volunteers.

"To have female counselors at the center will make the
women callers feel more secure," hotline staff member Shen Yiwu
told the Shanghai Daily.

During the Mao era, homosexuals were persecuted, especially
during the Cultural Revolution when prison terms and death
sentences were meted out. Homosexuality was listed as a mental
disorder in China until 2001.