In a ground-breaking ruling, a Chinese court has backed a gay man who sued a gay “cure” clinic.
Yang Teng, also known as Xiao Zhen, claimed that the Xinyu Piaoxiang “conversion therapy” clinic in the city of Chongqing left him traumatised with its use of electro-shock therapy.
Yang said that, under pressure from his family to get married and raise a family, he was taken in by an online ad for the clinic which promised to cure him of his homosexuality.
The shocks were administered when he was asked by clinic staff to have sexual thoughts about other men, in a bid to associate his gay sexuality with negative sensations.
Unsurprisingly, the “therapy” failed and Yang sued both the Chinese search engine that advertised the clinic and the clinic itself.
On Friday, a Beijing court ruled that conversion therapy is “false.” Noting that homosexuality was removed from the Ministry of Health’s list of mental illnesses in 2001, it stated that homosexuality is not a disease.
The court also ordered the clinic to pay Yang 3,500 yuan ($690) and to post a public apology on its website.
Yang told AFP: “I’m going to take this verdict and show it to my parents so they can see a Chinese court said homosexuality isn’t a mental illness.”
“This case should set an important precedent in China and also internationally where clinics – either for religious motivations, financial gain, or both – offer damaging therapies on the false promise of converting individuals to heterosexuality,” commented Graeme Reid, Director, LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
Homosexuality was legalised in China in 1997, but LGBT people have no specific protections from discrimination, same-sex relationships have no legal standing and homosexuality remains a taboo.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful.