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‘Curing’ homosexuality in China

Gay Rights

It’s not a crime to be gay in China but LGBT+ people are being forced to undergo ‘conversion treatment’ throughout the country.

LGBT+ people are still subjected to ‘forced confinement, medication and even electric shocks to try to change their sexual orientation,’ says Graeme Reid from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

More than 20 years since China decriminalized homosexuality, public hospitals and private clinics are offering the ‘treatment’ to parents who request it for their children, according to a recent HRW report.

Chinese authorities have never taken effective steps to stop hospitals from providing the ‘therapy’

Conversion therapies are illegal under China’s 2013 Mental Health Law, which establishes that any medical treatment must respect basic rights and dignity, and that there can be no intervention for something that is not classified as a disorder – homosexuality has not been classified in this way since 2001.

But Chinese authorities have never taken effective steps to stop hospitals from providing the ‘therapy’.

Some of the HRW report’s inter­viewees say they underwent electroshock sessions aimed at associating pain or discomfort with images, videos or descriptions of gay sex. Some report being forced to take medication without being told of the effects or possible risks.

Almost all interviewees reported verbal abuse by medical staff. They also, without exception, describe intense family and societal pressure, and had chosen not to file complaints.

New Internationalist issue 509 magazine cover This article is from the January-February 2018 issue of New Internationalist.
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