Taiwan: Demand that Court Opens Up Its Doors in Gay Bookstore Obscenity Trial

Right to Freedom from Discrimination
Right to be Equal before the Law
Right to a Fair and Public Hearing
Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Taiwan's only gay and lesbian bookstore has been unreasonably charged with obscenity and is currently under trial behind closed doors. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) urges you to join the Gender Sexuality Rights Association, Taiwan (G/SRAT) in their urgent plea for support and solidarity by sending letters to the court to open the trial to the public and advocate for the human rights of freedom of expression for all citizens of Taiwan.

According to G/SRAT, Taiwan’s only gay bookstore, Gin Gin Gay Bookstore, and its owner Lai, J.J., were charged with obscenity after Gin Gin’s regular shipment of 200 copies of legally imported male body magazines from Hong Kong was seized at the Keelung dock in March 2003, and police raided Gin Gin and confiscated more than 500 copies of similar publications in August of the same year. At the moment of the raids, the journals had abided by all ordinances regarding adult publications: Not only did the journals bear warning signs regarding its adult content but also had plastic wrappings to prevent accidental viewing by minors. Signs were also posted all around the bookstore warning customers not to tamper with the wrapping.

The Keelung District Court then charged Gin Gin’s owner Lai under Criminal Code Article 235 for the dissemination/distribution of obscenities. When Lai went to court in June 2004, lesbian and gay groups rallied in support but were blocked from simply entering the court building. Behind closed doors and despite contestation by Lai’s attorney, the court found that the confiscated journals must be sent for review by a notorious censorship NGO that has been known to persecute sex radicals. The review opinion came back recently: As this NGO considered even pictures of erect penises as “unnatural,” it deemed most of the copies seized as “obscene,” subject to a prison sentence of two years and a fine of US$30,000.

At the second court appearance in March 2005, gay activists and gender/sexuality activists who went to court to hear the case were subjected to thorough searches. Despite this, they were again blocked outside the courtroom. Inside, Gin Gin’s owner Lai valiantly rebutted the review opinions point by point and educated the court about gay culture and gay images. The court will meet again on 19 April 2005 to hear Lai’s final argument before delivering the final ruling.

G/SRAT contends that the case is built on discriminatory assumptions and represents a blatant example of homophobic persecution. The court has consistently closed its doors to anyone other than Lai and his attorney. G/SRAT and sexual rights activists in Taiwan are in dire need of international support to apply pressure to public opinion so as to prevent this case from being silently sacrificed behind closed doors.

Please address your letter of support to:

THE TAIWAN KEELUNG DISTRICT COURT at klcmail@mail.moj.gov.tw.

Please send a copy of the email (subject: We Support Gin Gin Bookstore) to G/SRAT at gsrat@gsrat.net and Lai J.J., owner of Gin Gin Bookstore, at gingins@gingins.com.tw.