NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A man has sued a clinic in China after undergoing electroshock treatment and hypnosis to “cure” his homosexuality, a rights group said.
The 30-year-old complainant, identified by the pseudonym Xiao Zhen, filed the first lawsuit of its kind in July, LGBT advocacy group All Out said. The verdict of his case, expected in September, could ban clinics practicing “conversion therapy” across the country.
“In families like mine, being gay is still seen as something that can be cured, and scam clinics prey on that fear,” Zhen said.
"I've been through electroshocks at a gay ‘cure’ clinic in China. Now I'm fighting back to tell everyone in China and beyond that being gay is OK, and to make sure that gay 'cures' are banned."
It was not immediately clear whether Zhen entered the clinic voluntarily or was coerced by his family or peers.
In addition to the lawsuit, Zhen last week also started a petition with All Out to press the World Health Organization (WHO) to re-affirm that homosexuality is not a disease and to speak out against gay cures and conversion therapy.
WHO declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder in 1990.
China conformed to the WHO mandate in 2001, according to All Out, but despite this, thousands of clinics in the country continue to offer gay cures or conversion therapy - psychological treatments aimed at changing one’s sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual.
Such therapies, which are also common in parts of the United States where Christian and other religious beliefs are strongly entrenched, continue to be a source of intense controversy in many countries.
In May 2012, WHO Director Dr Mirta Roses Periago recognised that there is no medical indication for changing sexual orientation and that reparative or conversion therapy represent "a serious threat to the health and well-being — even the lives — of affected people."
Gay conversion therapies have been the subject of numerous films and documentaries over the past decade, with some filmmakers highlighting the absurdity of approaches that, in some cases, end up damaging an otherwise perfectly sane mind.
“These sham gay ‘cures’ kill,” said Tingting Wei, executive director of the Chinese gay rights organization Queer Comrades. “Their persistence perpetuates discrimination and can have disastrous, or even fatal, consequences for the gay or lesbian person subjected to the painful and humiliating treatments.”
(Editing by Alisa Tang: firstname.lastname@example.org)