Gay man in China wins suit over forced conversion therapy

Participants of Hong Kong's annual pride parade walking through the streets with a large rainbow flag on Nov 26, 2016.
Participants of Hong Kong's annual pride parade walking through the streets with a large rainbow flag on Nov 26, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese court has ordered a psychiatric hospital to compensate and apologise to a gay man who was forced to undergo conversion therapy - a ruling hailed by LGBT rights groups.

The 37-year-old man had been forcibly placed in the institution by his family in October 2015, shortly after he revealed his homosexuality to his wife and asked for a divorce, according to the verdict seen by AFP on Tuesday (July 4).

The hospital diagnosed him with "sexual preference disorder" and refused to allow him to leave despite his requests, forcing him to undergo a medicated treatment that would supposedly "cure" him.

The man, surnamed Yu, filed a lawsuit and last week a court in the city of Zhumadian, central Henan province, ruled in his favour, ordering the hospital to issue a public apology and pay him 5,000 yuan (S$1,017).

"This verdict is of great importance for homosexuals because no laws offer protection against these forced treatments," Peng Yanhui, director of the NGO LGBT Rights Advocacy China, told AFP.

Such conversion therapies are unscientific and ineffective, but they remain on offer at many clinics across China.

In 2001, China withdrew homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses, but homosexual men and women continue to face intense discrimination and family pressure.

Speaking last summer of his ordeal to AFP, Mr Yu said he was strapped to a hospital bed for almost 20 days while forced to ingest a cocktail of pills intended to "correct" his sexual orientation, with hospital staff threatening to hit him if he refused to swallow.

The verdict recounted Mr Yu's statement that he was "treated by force" with medications and injections for 19 days.

The hospital said it had diagnosed him with anxiety disorder, stating he had a "tendency towards self-harm".

The court dismissed the justification, stating that Mr Yu's medical record showed him to be stable, not suicidal - thereby making inpatient treatment by force a violation of his rights to personal freedom.

An unprecedented judgment was issued in a similar case in December 2014, when a Beijing court condemned a different clinic offering homosexuality "cures" in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing.

The clinic was ordered to compensate Mr Yang Teng, a young man traumatised by electroshocks administered to his genitals.

Despite the verdict, AFP reporters found last year that clinics in Chongqing still used electroshocks, confinement and chemical castration.