Following harsh criticism from local media, Vietnam’s ministry of culture has ordered the country’s publishers to stop “poisoning” young people with gay romance novels, most of which originate from mainland China.
The Published and Printing Department sent letters to domestic publishers with instructions to stop releasing “clichéd, useless, obscene and offensive” romance novels and to closely review all their published books and remove anything “indecent,” Thanh Nien News reports. Instead, publishers were asked to release only “healthy” content that is “suitable with Vietnamese habits and customs.”
Earlier this year, the Vietnamese media strongly condemned Chinese romance novels, especially singling out danmei (耽美)—gay erotica that sometimes involves Benedict Cumberbatch—as being particularly dangerous to the nation’s youth. The books, most of which are translated popular web fiction written by introverted young women, were accused of attracting readers as young as 12 years old with “questionable” content and giving them unrealistic ideas about love and relationships, and even promoting rape.
Director of the publishing department Chu Van Hoa insisted that the ban was only temporary: “We do not shut down any genre of books, but the government needs to regulate an activity related to culture and people’s way of thinking so that it can benefit people.”
Only those publishers which prove that they are capable of selecting “good books” will be allowed to publish romance novels again, Chu was quoted as saying. That should make for an interesting test.
Thanh Nien News also reports that gay romance novels somehow account for a majority of book sales for Vietnamese publishers across the country, owing to the fact they are produced in great numbers and sold at high prices.
Danmei has also occasionally been targeted by the Chinese government in crackdowns, and Chinese news reports seem to be downplaying the gay erotica aspect of the ban.
While Vietnam’s human rights record might leave something to be desired, it has been seen as a leader in the region when it comes to respecting gay rights, so this ban on GayRomLit raises troubling concerns about Southeast Asia’s supposed progressive paradise.
We’ll just have to wait and see how the government reacts to Jolin Tsai’s latest music video.
by Alex Linder
[Images via iFeng, Sohu, Weibo]