China urged to halt abusive gay 'conversion' therapy

How LGBT Chinese are forced into'conversion therapy

How LGBT Chinese are forced into'conversion therapy

Young LGBT people can face intense pressure and scrutiny from their families, and many of those interviewed in the report said they were pushed into conversion therapy by their own parents.

The report released by New York-based Human Rights Watch, based on interviews with 17 people subjected to the widely criticized techniques since 2009, comes as awareness has grown in China regarding the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Nearly all of the people interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported being subject to verbal harassment and insulting language by doctors and psychiatrists, including terms such as "sick", "pervert", "disease", "abnormal", and "dirty". In 2013, a mental health law effectively ruled conversion therapy illegal, yet such practices still continue to take place.

Liu, a pseudonym, is one of more than a dozen Chinese LGBT people who spoke to Human Rights Watch (HRW) for a new report into so-called "conversion therapy" - procedures meant to alter their sexuality that are often abusive and based on shoddy science.

"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", said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at Human Rights Watch. In these facilities - including both public hospitals, which are government-run and monitored, and private clinics, which are licensed and supervised by the National Health and Family Planning Commission - medical professionals subjected them to "therapy" that in some cases entailed involuntary confinement, forcible medication, and electroshocks, which can constitute a form of torture.

"The experience had left a deep psychological impact on me", said Yang, was not involved in the Human Rights Watch report, in an interview Tuesday.

In addition, 11 interviewees told HRW that they were forced to take pills or subjected to injections without being informed about their goal or potential risks. As Liu Xiaoyun (a pseudonym) said, "As they turned it up, I started to feel pain instead of just numb". It felt like... having needles stabbing my skin. "Then after a few minutes, my body started trembling... it was not until later did I realize that was an electroshock machine". The doctor asked me to think about sex with my boyfriend. You will never have a happy family... "Have you ever considered your parents" happiness?" But when Human Rights Watch contacted the bureau responsible for monitoring implementation of the law, an agent said they were unaware of any abuses related to conversion therapy. "I got freaked out and had no idea what happened", Gong Lei, who underwent conversion therapy in Fujian province, told HRW.

China also has no laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, which deters victims of conversion therapy from seeking justice out of fear that their sexual orientation will be made public.

Two court cases have challenged specific aspects of conversion therapy, and courts have sided with the plaintiffs, in one case ruling that a hospital forcibly confined the plaintiff, and in another case, awarding damages to the plaintiff for his physical and psychological harm from electroshock treatment.

According to HRW, the pseudoscientific practice is widespread in China, carried out in public hospitals and government approved clinics even though homosexuality is neither a crime nor regarded as a mental illness in the country.

The group also urged global organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization to lobby the Chinese government to end the practice of conversion therapy. "Only then does decriminalization become meaningful legally and socially, and give LGBT people across China actionable protections against this grim practice".