China opens first lesbian hotline
BEIJING, Nov 22 (Reuters) China, where homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder until 2001, has opened its first hotline for lesbians following the success of a service for gay men, state media reported today.
The free hotline, launched this week, operates in Shanghai, the free-wheeling financial centre where social change has outpaced the rest of China.
The new line, staffed by trained counsellors, would provide ''real help'' for lesbians, Xinhua news agency said.
''Many lesbians in China are pressured into marrying men and end up living miserable lives,'' sociologist Li Yinhe was quoted as saying.
More understanding and tolerance from lesbians' families and friends were needed, she added.
During the Mao era, homosexuals were persecuted, especially during the Cultural Revolution when they risked prison terms and even death sentences. Even today homosexuals still face stigma and discrimination.
China has no official statistics on homosexuality. The health authority estimated there were five to 10 million gays at the end of 2004, but some experts put the number at at least 30 million.
REUTERS SSC VV1239