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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2006, 14:35 GMT
China opens first lesbian hotline
Mobile phone
Helplines for gay men already exist in China
China has opened its first telephone support helpline for lesbians, state media has reported.

The free service launched in Shanghai is staffed by lesbians trained in counselling and offers psychological help and support, Xinhua agency said.

The initiative follows the success of a similar service for gay men in the country.

Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder by the Chinese authorities until 2001.

Homosexuals suffered persecution during the Mao era, and correspondents say they still face frequent discrimination.

"Many lesbians in China are pressured into marrying men and end up living miserable lives," sociologist Li Yinhe said.

China does not keep official statistics on homosexuality but the country's health authority estimated there were 5 million to 10 million gay men at the end of 2004.

Some experts believe the true figure is around 30 million.




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