The incident began in October 2015, when Yu, a 38-year-old homosexual, was sent to a mental hospital – against his will – in Henan by his wife and family members. Yu was later diagnosed with ‘sexual preference disorder’ and was forced to undergo a series of treatments involving taking medications and injections that he did not consent for. Despite his best efforts, Yu was kept in the hospital for 19 days – and was finally released with the aid of the NGO LGBT Rights Advocacy China.

Nevertheless, Yu’s life was never the same again following his hospitalisation. He left his family home as he was living under the threat that his family might send him back to the hospital again. Eventually, Yu decided to bring up his case in court, suing the mental health hospital for forcing him to undergo ‘gay conversion therapy’ under the guise of treatment for his ‘anxiety disorder’.

On 26 June 2017, the court announced Yu’s long-awaited legal victory against the hospital over forced treatment for his sexual preference. As a result of the court proceeding, the hospital was ordered to issue a public apology and pay Yu USD735 in damages – a step down from the original USD1,470 that Yu had demanded. While the court order and fine may seem like a small figure, the legal victory is a first for the LGBT community in China that has steadily begun to make greater public presence.

“For the LGBT community, they can have more confidence in [the courts’] ability to uphold their rights… for health institutions, after an experience losing a lawsuit, they will curb their actions of forcibly treating homosexuals,” commented Yu’s lawyer, Huang Rui, who was very satisfied with the court verdict.

Despite all of this, the mental health hospital refused to admit to administering gay conversion therapy and only admitted to having committed treatment without consent.

No laws regulating ‘gay conversion therapy’

Till today, the situation of LGBT right in China remains to be a difficult and complicated one. Officially, China’s psychiatric association has dropped homosexuality from its official list of disorders since the year 2001. Yet, in the following 16 years, hospitals and clinics all over the country still offer conversion therapies for homosexual individuals. The reasons these treatments exist may, on some level, be culturally linked – nonetheless, one thing for certain is there are currently no laws put into place which deem these conversion therapies as illegal nor, is there any laws to regulate them.

The condition is further exacerbated by the central government which has recently banned the depiction of homosexual individuals on television citing it as ‘abnormal sexual relationships and behavior’. The government is also planning to expand the scope of the ban by including online videos. Even smartphone dating apps targeting homosexuals, such as Rela – a lesbian dating app – were shut down.

While being homosexual is not considered illegal in China, courts have never agreed to legally recognise same-sex marriage. So, where persecution may not be an issue, recognition is non-existent which makes the LGBT community of China almost invisible in the eyes of human rights in the country.

Controversial ‘gay conversion therapy’ still prevalent in Mainland China

Despite having been established by the scientific and medical community as not being a psychiatric illness, conversion therapy for homosexuals still remains largely prevalent in the Chinese community.

Conversion therapies in the West often encompass behavior therapy such as counselling, group therapy, marriage therapy and religious faith. Meanwhile, over in China, the suggested treatments for homosexuality as listed in “Consulting Psychology” published by Guangdong Higher Education Press, a recommended text for mental health education, include platonic lover relationship, sexual orientation transfer, repulsion therapy and shock therapy.

The latter two remain as the most controversial, as they involve physical harm towards the subject.

In repulsion therapy, the patient is forced to vomit or threatened by electrocution every time thoughts of a same sex lover emerges which then leads to nausea.

Meanwhile, shock therapy forces the patient into mental shock by moving him to an entirely new environment, while severing previous connections with friends and social interactions. Of course, none of these treatments have yet to be empirically proven to be effective.

China has a very large homosexual community with first-tier cities such as Shanghai hosting annual gay pride parades. The largest hurdle for the homosexual community still remains to be the conservative society and government. Otherwise, legal victories like the one of Yu against homosexual conversion therapy is one small step forward for homosexual acceptance and understanding in China. MIMS

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