Sexologist and social commentator Li Yinhe, long one of my favorite Chinese bloggers, is finally back. After months of just posting Nietzsche translations, she’s finally posting original stuff again, faster than we can translate it.
Recently, she called for an end to China’s now-outdated “Group Licentiousness” laws — laws that banned any and all group sex acts, even when they were conducted in private and involving only consenting adults (see our translation here). These laws are infrequently used, but Li argued there was no reason for them to stay on the books at all. A few days ago, we found out why.
Recently, associate professor Wang of a Nanjing college [she is being intentionally vague to protect the man’s privacy] was charged for particpating in a “wife-swapping” activity. If convicted, under the group licentiousness laws, he could be taken into custody to serve a prison sentence. His college has already suspended his employment and the dispensing of his salary.
Originally, I thought there weren’t cases of people being sentenced under the group licentiousness laws in the past twenty years, but it looks like I was too optimistic about China’s progress. If [Wang] is actually convicted, it will be a great leap backward for China’s human rights situation.
Group licentiousness laws violate the constitution; the conflict between the two appears on the front of “respecting and protecting human rights”. These laws infringe on the basic rights of citizens: the constitution (section 33) reads, “All those holding P.R.C. nationality are citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The nation respects and protects [their] human rights.”
What citizens choose to do in private in terms of consensual sexual activity should be protected under the constitution. Just as the constitution doesn’t have a provision that “Chinese citizens have the right to eat food”, it doesn’t have a provision saying “Chinese citizens have a right to participate in [private, consensual] sexual activity” because these two rights are part of the ‘fundamental human rights’ the constitution protects. For the same reason, just as we cannot use the penal code to forbid people from eating, we [should not be able to] use the penal code to prevent people from engaging in consensual sexual activity in private. Additionally, it’s worth reminding everyone: just as eating food isn’t fundamentally harmful to people, neither is sexual activity fundamentally harmful to people.
The crux of this [the Prof. Wang case] is that it hasn’t hurt anyone. Wife-swapping is a sexual activity enjoyed by an extremely small minority. It does violate [social] conventions, and the vast majority of people will not participate in it or approve of it. But just violating social convention isn’t violating the law. As long as activities that violate convention don’t harm anyone else, one has a right to participate in them. This right should not be stripped away in the name of protecting “morality” or “convention”.
I call on those people who are still rational, raise the voices of justice and mercy to protect the rights of Professor Wang. Improving the human rights situation in China isn’t just saving Professor Wang, it’s saving ourselves. Worsening the human rights situation isn’t just hurting Professor Wang, it’s hurting every single one of us. I hope everyone will raise their voice, and strongly oppose and obstruct Prof. Wang’s conviction.