HONG KONG — Human Rights Watch, a New York-based agency, released a report this week calling for the Chinese government to stop subjecting LGBT residents here to “conversion” therapy, the Associated Press reports.
The report was based on interviews with 17 people who’d been subjected to such efforts.
Homosexuality was removed from China’s official list of mental illnesses more than 15 years ago, but stories of families enrolling relatives in treatments seeking to change their sexual orientation remain common.
Yang Teng, a Chinese gay rights activist, said a staff member at a private clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing administered an electric shock to his finger as he was told to think about a time he had had sex with a man, the AP reports.
“The experience had left a deep psychological impact on me,” Yang, who was not involved in the Human Rights Watch report, said in an interview Tuesday. He said one session at a clinic in the southwestern city of Chongqing in 2014 cost him 500 Chinese yuan ($75).
The rights group’s report says many victims of conversion therapy were forcibly brought to hospitals by their families, which became the subject of a groundbreaking lawsuit earlier this year. The hospitals locked patients in their rooms to prevent escapes, the AP reports.
According to the report’s findings, patients were verbally harassed by doctors, called “sick,” ”pervert” and “dirty,” and some had to undergo “aversion therapy,” where patients were forced to take nausea-inducing medication while watching gay pornography, so that they would associate sexual arousal with nausea, the AP reports.
Chinese society continues to strongly favor children who can pass on their family name, and since same-sex marriage is not legal and same-sex couples may not adopt jointly, gay and lesbian people feel compelled to enter heterosexual marriages and have children, the AP reports.
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.
The scope of public activism by LGBT rights groups is restricted and the depiction of gay people on television and popular web streaming services is banned.
Conversion therapy is also a profitable business; doctors and clinics can charge up to 30,000 yuan ($4,500) for “treatment,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Human Rights Watch LGBT Rights Program, the AP reports.