NANJING, China — A Chinese court will soon hear a case that is the first of its kind for the country: The case is being brought against the Nanjing Urban Psychiatric Care Consultancy Centre, a clinic that offers gay conversion therapy in China.
Gay rights activists in China are hopeful that the results of the case will symbolize a groundbreaking legal victory in the fight to dispel the myth that homosexuality is an illness that requires treatment.
Although China declassified homosexuality as a mental illness over 10 years ago, many clinics still exist that offer gay conversion therapy.
Dr. Zhou Zhengyou at the Nanjing clinic claims that he is able to ‘cure’ up to 70 percent of his gay patients. The cost of each session is $120, a hefty fee considering process requires many sessions.
“Gay conversion therapy” is not only expensive, but also painful.
“One common method is electric shock,” said Zhengyou. “When the patient has a gay thought, we electrocute them or inject them with drugs that make them sick.”
Not only is homosexuality being wrongly treated as an illness, but patients are also being tortured during ‘therapy’ for their sexual orientation. The Chinese gay community has had enough.
China’s current LGBT population is estimated to be around 30 million – a large part of the population to discriminate against.
Several protests have been organized, which is courageous given China’s strict laws on speech. Although protestors are legally forbidden to March in China, human rights activists hope that the court case will allow for a new approach to the problem, raising awareness and hopefully outlawing practices such as electric shock therapy.
In May 2013, a 19-year-old LGBT activist led an unregistered march with 100 participants in Changsha, Hunan. Participants called for an end to homophobia and discrimination. She was detained for 12 days and those involved were blocked from continuing protests.
While many suggest that China has made slow social progress because of Confucian influences that incited pressures for people to get married and produce heirs to their families, many Chinese citizens and international observers affirm that this is no excuse.
China is making progress though. Apart from the upcoming court case, Shanghai now holds a set of gay pride events yearly. These events include gay discussion groups, a fun run and movie screenings.
The events work to push for greater cultural acceptance by raising awareness on many of the social challenges LGBT individuals face.
The legal system undoubtedly represents a beacon of hope for gay rights in China. Nevertheless, legality is not the same as protection and is still largely controlled by China’s Communist Party.
Although there is much progress to be made, China’s LGBT population is increasingly moving into the international spotlight, gaining both recognition and sympathy. Aversion therapy has been targeted and condemned by activists in Europe and America for decades.
Now, the international community is urging China to follow suit.
– Caroline Logan
Sources: BBC, The Diplomat