Thu, May 02, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Military police to accept gays

EMBRACING CHANGE To counter criticism that it is homophobic, the military said that a rule barring people with `sexual orientation impairment' from serving will be changed

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

To avoid criticism for discriminating against gays, the military police yesterday said they would revise a rule which excludes homosexual conscripts from serving as guards at the Presidential Office and other vital governmental buildings.

The Military Police say that while the rule has existed for many years, it is a pity that its application has been interpreted as discrimination against homosexuals.

"The rule does not use the term `homosexual' to describe a soldier with such an inclination. It rather uses `sexual orientation impairment,' when it refers to homosexuality," a spokesman for the military police command said.

"We don't remember when the rule was formulated. But we are certain that sexual orientation impairment' was considered a mental illness at the time," the spokesman said.

"Now times have changed. The rule is not quite appropriate by current standards. We will revise it to show our respect for the rights of soldiers, regardless of their sexual orientation," the official said.

The military police official made the statement yesterday in response to a report yesterday in a local Chinese newspaper.

The report said that exclusive rule of military police tends to lump homosexual conscripts and conscripts with criminal records into a category called "potentially dangerous elements."

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said military police have always been very careful in their selection of recruits, since their primary job is to defend the president.

"When looking for suitable candidates, the Military Police are usually concerned mostly about the look, height and physical attributes of recruits. They then train the recruits for several months before picking out the best for the toughest jobs, such as guarding the Presidential Office," the official said.

"The second-best will be assigned to regular units around the island. These will include conscripts with gender identification disorder," he said.

"The practice is not discriminating against homosexuals. It is aimed at preventing those responsible for the most important tasks, such as guarding the president, from getting into compromising situations due to issues of sexual orientation," he said.

"We accept the fact that values have become more and more diversified. But we think the military, by its nature, must be careful not to be so."

Homosexuality in the armed forces is not the only issue that the military wants to play down for the sake of safeguarding its traditional values.

The sexual harassment of female and non-commissioned officers by their male superiors or subordinates has also been kept from the public.

Military analysts say there have been so few reports of such incidents in the press, that the public tends to believe that gender equality already exists in the military.

But some defense officials admit in private that what has been exposed is just the tip of the iceberg.

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