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Electric shocks, confinement: How China forces its LGBTs into heterosexuality

Members of the LGBT community are subjected to ‘conversion therapy’ to change their sexuality, they also face verbal harassment by doctors and psychiatrists, including such as ‘sick’, ‘pervert’, ‘diseased’, ‘abnormal’ .

world Updated: Nov 15, 2017 14:33 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Earlier this year, a Chinese court banned a state hospital from forcing a homosexual man to undergo conversion therapy to try to make him heterosexual.
Earlier this year, a Chinese court banned a state hospital from forcing a homosexual man to undergo conversion therapy to try to make him heterosexual.(Representational Photo)

Electric shocks, forced medications and confinement are used in some Chinese hospitals and private clinics to “convert” LGBT persons to heterosexuality, a new report by a rights group has found.

It has urged the government to stop this torture in the name of “treatment”.

China decriminalised homosexuality in 1997 and four years later, in 2001, removed it from the list of mental disorders.

But more than two decades later, members of the LGBT community continue to be subjected to “conversion therapy” to change their sexuality, the report by the Human Rights Watch found.

“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 report said.

One of the 17 persons, HRW interviewed recounted the experience of being given electric shocks.

“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 realise that was an electroshock machine,” said one person identified by the pseudonym Li Xiaoyun.

The report said the interviewees reported being subject to verbal harassment and insulting language by doctors and psychiatrists, including terms such as “sick”, “pervert”, “diseased”, “abnormal” and “dirty”.

“All 17 people interviewed by Human Rights Watch were emphatic that they would not have submitted to conversion therapy were it not for intense family and societal pressure. None provided free and informed consent,” the report added.

Titled, ‘Have You Considered Your Parents’ Happiness?’ Conversion Therapy Against LGBT People in China”, the report details experiences of people who “…endured conversion therapy, describes how parents threatened, coerced, and sometimes physically forced their adult and adolescent children to submit to conversion therapy”.

The laws against such practices are in place but the problem lies in the implementation, the report indicated.

“China’s 2013 Mental Health Law requires that the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders comply with diagnostic standards. Because same-sex attraction is not a disorder, the law renders conversion therapy illegal,” it said.

“However, Chinese authorities have not taken proactive measures to stop healthcare facilities or practitioners from offering conversion therapy, such as issuing clear guidelines prohibiting conversion therapy; monitoring facilities to determine whether conversion therapy is taking place; and, where it is, holding such facilities accountable”.

This is an issue that is only occasionally highlighted by the state-controlled media.

Earlier this year, a Chinese court banned a state hospital from forcing a homosexual man to undergo conversion therapy to try to make him heterosexual.

“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,” Graeme Reid, LGBT rights director at HRW said.

“It’s time for China to join the global consensus: acknowledge that forced/medical conversion therapy is abusive and discriminatory and ban it,” Reid said.

“Only then does decriminalisation become meaningful legally and socially, and give LGBT people across China actionable protections against this grim practice,” Reid added.