An international human rights group has urged the Chinese government to put a stop on the abusive “conversion therapy” practices allegedly conducted by some medical facilities against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In its report, New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) revealed that some LGBT individuals in China were subjected to electroshock therapy, involuntary confinement and forced medication in an effort to “cure” them of their homosexuality. According to the Associated Press, the findings released on Wednesday were based on interviews with 17 people who have undergone such techniques.
The NGO’s report noted that while such practices have long been publicly condemned in the country as awareness on LGBT rights grew significantly, some families have continued to enroll relatives in treatments seeking to change their sexual orientation.
“It’s been more than 20 years since China decriminalized homosexuality, but LGBT people are still subjected to forced confinement, medication, and even electric shocks to try to change their sexual orientation,” HRW LGBT rights director Graeme Reid was quoted as saying. “If Chinese authorities are serious about ending discrimination and abuse against LGBT people, it’s time to put an end to this practice in medical facilities.”
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Gay rights activist Yang Teng said that doctors will “tell parents that as long as they are willing to pay, they will offer a cure. And families, lacking in any kind of education on homosexuality, will pay as much money as they can to get their children converted.”
After allegedly being forcibly brought to hospitals by their families, victims of conversion therapy were said to be locked in their rooms by the hospitals. Four individuals that were interviewed stated that they didn’t even know what was going on until it was too late.
During their stay, the patients were also constantly verbally abused, with doctors calling them “sick,” ”pervert,” and “dirty.”
In sessions referred to as “aversion therapy,” some patients were forced to watch gay pornography after taking nausea-inducing drugs, to make them associate sexual arousal with nausea. At least five of the surveyed revealed that they underwent electroshock therapy.
As there are currently no laws protecting the LGBT people from discrimination in China, victims of conversion therapy have remained apprehensive in seeking justice out of fear of further condemnation. While forced confinement of individuals is illegal unless they pose a danger to the public under the Mental Health Law, there are still no guidelines set specifically prohibiting conversion therapy.
The government, however, is required to investigate activities by hospitals violating such provision as prescribed by the National Health Committee.
It is worth noting that conversion therapy is a profitable business. According to Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Program advocacy director Boris Dittrich, a “treatment” could cost as much as 30,000 yuan ($4,500).
Earlier this year, a gay man successfully sued a mental hospital over forced conversion therapy. A court in Henan Province ordered a city psychiatric hospital to publish an apology and pay its victim 5,000 yuan ($750) in compensation. Some activists are optimistic that the landmark case would at least be a step in a positive direction.
LGBT activist Wang Long, however, lamented that conversion therapy may still persist because “many doctors are ignorant about homosexuality, and just follow the mainstream opinion, which is that being gay is abnormal, a sickness that must be treated.”