Local authorities in Hong Kong are facing criticism following restrictions being placed on accessing children’s books containing LGBTI themes in public libraries.
According to reports by local media the city’s Home Affairs Department has ordered its staff to restrict access to 10 books and place them in the “closed stacks,” meaning library visitors will now need to request a librarian to view or read the books.
The books at the centre of the controversy, all feature diverse families and gender expressions and include And Tango Makes Three, an acclaimed children’s book based on a true story about two male penguins who hatch an egg and raise a youngster.
Another of the books titled, Introducing Teddy, tells the story of a stuffed bear who identifies as a girl and wants to be called “Tilly” instead of Thomas.
Reports indicate that the restriction has been imposed following pressure by an anti-LGBTI organisation called the Family School Sexual Orientation Discrimination Ordinance Concern Group.
In response to the restrictions, Human Rights Watch has called on the authorities to immediately reverse their decision, saying, “Instead of hiding a children’s book about a same-sex penguin couple, Hong Kong’s government should endorse nondiscrimination and put the books back on the open shelves.”
Boris Dittrich, who is the LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch added, “While Hong Kong’s highest court is taking down discriminatory walls, the government seems intent on maintaining them.”
“LGBT children, who are subject to disproportionate rates of bullying and often experience feelings of isolation and alienation, need reliable, accurate, and affirming information,” explained Dittrich.
“The Hong Kong government should be working to create a climate of inclusion and tolerance for children and adults – not exclusion and stigma.”
While homosexuality was legalised in Hong Kong in 1991, same-sex unions or relationships are still not recognised, and currently, no laws are in place to specifically ban discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation.