“China officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1997, but LGBTQ people are still subjected to forced confinement, medication and even electric shocks to try to change their sexual orientation,” according to Graeme Reid, LGBTQ rights director at Human Rights Watch.
The Chinese Psychiatric Society removed “homosexuality” from the Classification of Mental Disorders in 2001, and even as a mental health law renders it illegal, the practices continue. These horrific “treatments” take place in hospitals as well as private clinics. The Human Rights Watch interviewed 17 people who were “threatened, coerced and physically forced by their parents to submit to conversion therapy, as adults or as adolescents.” Five were subjected to electrical shocks while being shown images or videos of homosexual acts. Other methods were used to change one’s sexual orientation.
These tactics are not isolated and are in use in other countries as well. In Brazil, the government banned conversion tactics, but a judge overruled that recently and so the torture continues.
The only country in Europe to ban this practice is Malta where the law changed in 2016. Only eight states in the U.S. have laws in place that ban the damaging practice. A bill introduced by former President Barack Obama to ban the therapies on the federal level was stalled in Congress last year. Many right-wing religious factions approve of this ongoing wrong-doing and in many instances promote it.
Let’s have a thought of the Canadian view regarding this matter. In this country, where all citizens are equal under the law, a nation that finally has a government and prime minister standing up for equal rights for LGBTQ citizens and their rightful place in our society, conversion therapy remains a legal reality. This is despite the long-held view that this procedure is damaging and demeaning has been supported by psychiatrists for years.
We, as a nation, must step up to the plate and outlaw this horrendous attempt to convert gays. It is inhumane, and has long-lasting negative effects on those forced to participate. Canada is a progressive nation and our health issues must be addressed, including the mental health of those who are drawn into conversion therapy. The practice is widespread and may be paid for by provincial health plans. Religious organizations, some of which propose such therapy for faith reasons, may be entitled to a tax exempt charitable status.
A few provinces have limited such procedures, but have not gone far enough. Our federal government must act to intervene and halt this terrible practice. This is blatant discrimination.
Experts and medical associations are unanimous that the therapies are bogus and cause serious harm to patients, leading to depression, self-harm and suicide. It is imperative that the government initiate action to intervene and outlaw anti-gay conversion across the country. The lack of serious response is alarming and the longer religious influence in this matter continues more damage will occur.
We are fortunate that we have equal rights, equal opportunity and equal marriage, and the time is here for a law to be implemented to identify the culprits and charges be laid. This outlandish practice must be stopped dead in its tracks without delay.
Parents who take their gay children to be “healed” must be taken to task, as must the so-called healers who are determined to cause serious harm. Religious freedom is protected under the Constitution, but so are members of the LGBTQ community. End this inhuman practice which has no place in Canada and elsewhere.
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Gerard Veldhoven is a longtime activist for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. His column appears Wednesdays in The News