China lawsuit challenges alleged gay 'cure'

China lawsuit challenges alleged gay 'cure'
Activists hold banners reading "legislation against sexual orientation discrimination is necessary" as they stand in front of rainbow-coloured dominoes spelling out the acronym 'IDAHOT' to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT) in Hong Kong on May 17, 2014.

BEIJING - A Chinese court began hearing the country's first-ever lawsuit by a homosexual man subjected to a treatment that was supposed to "cure" his sexual preference.

The gay plaintiff, Xiao Zhen, 30, told China Daily that he was confident about his case. A ruling is expected in about a month. Xiao, who appeared in the People's Court of Haidian District, Beijing, for the hearing, said the psychological impact of the alleged "homosexual cure" provided by a private psychological counseling centre in Chongqing still lingers in his mind.

That one-hour therapy session, he recalled, included hypnosis and electric shock treatment - and "was a total scam".

It cost him 500 yuan (S$100).

"I think I will win the case with sufficient evidence. Homosexuality is not a mental disorder at all; so all alleged treatments are cheating," he said.

The treatment centre and Baidu Inc, one of China's biggest Internet companies, will be required to issue an apology and pay cash compensation of 10,000 yuan if Xiao wins the case, he said.

Xiao went for the treatment in February after he saw the centre on Baidu in a commercial promotion category.

"That's false advertising, as homosexuality is not defined as a mental problem in China," said Li Duilong, Xiao's lawyer.

China removed homosexuality from the list of mental disorders under the 3rd version of Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders in April 2001.

"That's in line with the international standard. The World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its mental diseases list in 1990," Li said.

In addition, the centre's registration authorised it to provide only counseling services. Electric shock therapy belongs to mental treatment, Li said.

According to Xiao, the counselor first hypnotized him by asking him to imagine a gay sex scenario, and then administered an electric shock to his genitals when he reached orgasm.

"The whole therapy is priced at 30,000 yuan for the cheating nightmare," Xiao said.

He added that several of his gay friends had similar experiences.

Xiao Dong, director of the China Rainbow Health Organisation in Beijing, an advocate for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, said that to provide such alleged "treatment" is illegal.

Moreover, Baidu, a large and well-known company, should shoulder more social responsibility and conscience in its advertising business, he said.

Experts estimate the homosexual population in China at 40 million, including 30 million men. Discrimination remains widespread, they say.

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