News and analysis on women's rights, the gender gap, LGBTI issues, sexual harassment, sexual minorities and masculinity in Asia and beyond.  

‘Kingdoms of women’: how modernity threatens Asia’s female-centric societies
While women’s rights may have become a major topic of discussion around the world in recent years, there are female-centric communities that for centuries have distinguished themselves by carving out their own feminist traditions in places such as China, India and Indonesia. But many of these matriarchal and matrilineal societies are now struggling to survive, amid threats posed by the modern world such as mass tourism, technology and the infiltration of ideas from mainstream patriarchal society. In China, for instance, there is a small Mosuo tribe known as the “kingdom of women.”. “Key to the Mosuo culture is their matrilineal family structure, with a basic building block of only members sh
Will China legalize same-sex marriage? These people hope so
Nearly 200,000 people have appealed to the Chinese authorities to recognize same-sex marriage, in a month-long push sparked by a review of the country’s civil law provisions. The country’s LGBT community and its supporters have been writing to legislators and leaving comments in favor of a change to China’s marriage laws during a public comment period which ended on Friday with more than 190,000 people responding. Among them is Ling Gu, a lesbian from Wuhan in the central Chinese province of Hubei. All she wants is a marriage certificate. Ling and her partner have had their wedding photos taken and together run a real estate business. In all but the eyes of the law, they are a married couple
The divergent tales of two women’s rights crusaders in China
Feminists Wang Wei and Xiong Jing both found their calling in college, but their experiences of campaigning for women’s rights in China have been vastly different. Wang, 21, who provides sex education through a start-up she founded, has received official policy and funding support for her activities. But 31-year-old Xiong, a prominent #MeToo activist seeking to change attitudes toward women, has been under tight government scrutiny, and her organization was shut down. This split-screen contrast may reflect one of the many contradictions in China’s economic, political and social policies as the ruling Communist Party tries to meet demands for a more equal society as people get richer, without
Chinese traditions are no excuse for disinheriting daughters in British Columbia
The elderly Chinese immigrant came to the office of Vancouver lawyer Trevor Todd, a long-time neighbor, with plans to write his will. He brought with him his wife of 35 years – and the intention to disinherit her and their daughter, and instead leave the entire family fortune to the couple’s adult son. “I told him ‘forget it’,” said Todd last week, of the encounter 15 years ago.  Todd’s neighbor was hardly an outlier. Lawyers say sex-based disinheritance of Asian women is common in Canada, with wives and daughters sometimes “shafted” (to use Todd’s wording) by the will of a family patriarch. But the phenomenon is now under scrutiny, thanks to a high-profile multimillion-dollar court victory
Woman boss hits out at question about work-life balance
Zhang Quanling, an entrepreneur who had become famous as a TV host, has lashed out against sexism in Chinese society. When asked how she balanced work and family life, Zhang went on a tirade, pushing back on what she saw as a misogynistic question.  “I want to make it clear, I hate this question very much,” Zhang told an interviewer during an event with Empower Education Online, an online learning platform.  “Why do you ask this question? Because you expected that I should be balancing my family and work, so you posed this question to confirm. You would never ask me why I don’t play ball with Yao Ming, because you have no such expectation,” she said.  Footage of the interview has gathered m
Taiwan’s shameful lack of women’s rights
It’s been a good week or so for Taiwan, where I was born. My heart burst as I watched the crowd of more than 40,000 supporters packing the streets of Taipei as they celebrated Taiwan's legalization of same-sex marriage. But the parade that celebrated a monumental advancement in Taiwan’s history left a small feeling of discomfort within. I had been in Taipei in early March, and attended the annual Women’s Day March, which aimed to highlight issues including gender violence, social inequality and reproductive rights. It was attended by around 100 people. The discrepancy in numbers troubled me. Why is there such a stigma in Taiwan about highlighting women’s rights? Crystal Liu, the founder of T
Why Chinese people are outraged by Alabama’s abortion ban
Alabama’s move to ban nearly all abortions in the state has shaken a country divided over women’s right to terminate a pregnancy. But in China, there is no debate. On Twitter-like Weibo, social media users have overwhelmingly slammed the American state’s sweeping abortion ban. “You cannot even have abortions if you are impregnated by rape or incest? Are these people crazy?” said a top comment. The stark contrast underscores how a history of population control policies has helped shape views on abortion in the world’s most populous nation. “In America, abortion might be a debate of human rights, and specifically, women’s rights. But in China, it’s not an issue of rights but an issue of law a
A 12-year-old girl is caught smuggling blood for sex testing
A 12-year-old girl was caught at a customs checkpoint in southern China smuggling a backpack full of blood samples from pregnant women into Hong Kong, most likely for gender testing, officials said. Prenatal sex testing is banned in China but legal in Hong Kong, and a cross-border business has flourished since China began enforcing a “one-child” policy in the late 1970s and has persisted since the policy’s recent reversal. The girl was caught on February 23 after her heavy-looking bag raised suspicion at the border crossing between the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese city which operates under a different legal framework. “This little kid’s bag was v
Inkstone index: China’s gender imbalance
1.15:1 – the number of boys born for every 1 girl in China. China has the world’s most skewed sex ratio at birth, with about 115 boys born for every 100 girls, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, published by the World Economic Forum. China is one of the only three countries with such a low ratio, along with Armenia and Azerbaijan. The country now has about 33 million more men than women, according to official figures. A traditional preference for male descendants and the country’s population control policies have contributed to the gender gap. Chinese doctors are banned from informing parents of the sex of their unborn children. But under the one-child policy, many couples stil
How and why men became eunuchs in imperial China
The presence of eunuchs in the Forbidden City, the ancient home to many Chinese emperors, was a long-standing tradition. These emasculated men served as palace menials, spies and harem watchdogs. An army of eunuchs was attached to the court, primarily to safeguard the imperial ladies’ chastity. Confucian values deemed it vital for the emperor, seen as heaven’s representative on Earth, to produce a direct male heir to maintain harmony between heaven and Earth. Not wanting to leave anything to chance during a period with a high infant mortality rate, the world’s largest harem was placed at the emperor’s disposal to ensure enough heirs would survive into adulthood.     A 2,000-year system Cour