Every year for several years now, blogger, sociologist, and sexologist Li Yinhe gives proposals advocating the legalization of gay marriage to her representative friends during the meetings of the NPC and the CPPCC. This year is no different, but she’s added another proposal to the mix this time around, calling for an end to laws that make “group licentiousness” [聚众淫乱罪] illegal.
What is “Group Licentiousness”?
According to this piece, group licentiousness is:
…the behavior of gathering in groups and participating in licentious activities. This crime is primarily characterized by its violation of social morality. Objectively, it is (1) a group of people together (often it is men and women mixed, but it could be all men or all women) and (2) they must be in the process of doing licentious things. This crime is mainly limited to the ringleaders and frequent participants […those convicted may be sentenced to] under five years in prison, short-term detention, or surveillance.
What Does Li Yinhe Propose
Translated directly from Li Yinhe’s proposal:
Obviously [the law against “group licentiousness”] is out-of-date; I recommend it be abolished. Originally, this charge was classified under “hooliganism/indecency charges” [流氓罪] but when that charge was abolished the “group licentiousness” charge remained under another heading. It is already very rarely applicable in actual society, therefore I propose it be abolished.
Li Yinhe lists several of the biggest cases of “group licentiousness” tried over the past few decades. The following is just one example, but most of them are similar and do not involve anything happening in public:
Case 4: Defendant Wang XX, female, successively seduced many men into having sexual relations with her. The procuratorate lodged a complaint under the indecency laws, and the court used these same laws to come to a verdict of guilty.
Li Yinhe then writes:
The cases above are the most serious sex-related court convictions [under this law] in China. So-called “group licentiousness” is nothing more than the “sex orgies” common in Western society. For example, case three resembles the American “swinger” trend of the 1970s. In Western personal ads, one can often see advertisements by swingers looking for lovers […] at present, there is much of this sort of activity in China as well.
As long as all the participants in these activities are consenting, the law should definitely not regard this as criminal. Citizens have the rights to do what they want with their own bodies […] If a person wants to play poker in private while wearing clothes, he has this right. If a person wants to play poker in private while naked, he has this right, regardless of how many people are involved. National law interfering in this kind of private activity makes it seem as though people’s bodies belong not to themselves but to the state […] this kind of legislative thought is, in and of itself, wrong, it is a mistake about who a person’s body belongs to.
Some reporters have raised questions about the proposal, and Li Yinhe has drafted a thorough response to the most common among them. In defending her proposal, she makes five main points (which I am rephrasing slightly in some cases):
- Decriminalizing “group licentiousness” does not mean [the government will be] advocating it.
- The law should not be used to resolve issues of morality.
- You cannot assume one group of people’s way of living to be normal and thus deem and punish another group’s way of living as illegal.
- The decriminalization of “group licentiousness” will not have a negative affect on people’s social conduct.
- Abolishing this law may have an upside no one has thought of in that it guards against the kind of violent trampling of people’s rights that occurred during the Cultural Revolution.
I expect this proposal will be ignored, just as Li’s yearly proposal to legalize gay marriage is. But Mrs. Li is correct in thinking this issue is of vital importance, and that the law should be abolished for the sake of protecting people’s right to do what they please with their own body (assuming all involved parties are consenting adults, and the activity is behind closed doors, of course!).
Do you think the “group licentiousness” laws should be repealed? Why or why not?
For more on sex in China see my recent post on china/divide, “Pornography should be Legal in China”.