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Chinese come out against therapy that seeks to 'correct' homosexuals

BEIJING--A wire connected to his genitals, a Chinese man says doctors administered repeated electric shocks as he watched a pornographic film — part of treatment he hoped would eliminate his sexual attraction to men.

“I thought I'd try and see if there was a chance I could become a normal person,” said the 25-year-old, who asked to be identified only by his surname Zhang.

“I didn't want to cause my family trouble, or disappoint them.”

Zhang's treatment shows the extreme end of a lucrative industry in China claiming to “correct” the sexualities of gay men and lesbians, who often face tremendous social pressures to live as heterosexuals.

“If I had a reaction (to the films) I would receive a shock,” said Zhang, who said he paid for the initial treatments himself after deciding life as a gay man would be “too tough.”

“It wasn't a massive shock, but it was painful.”

China officially classed homosexuality as a mental disorder as recently as 2001, although some attitudes — especially in larger cities — have become more tolerant in recent years.

Nonetheless gay men and lesbians in China, who are often only children, still have to deal with their parents' expectations of marriage and children.

“Conversion therapy,” as it is sometimes known, has more than a century of history around the world, but has fallen out of favor with medical authorities.

It persists in countries from Singapore to Britain and the United States — where reports of electro-shock use have added to momentum for a ban.

Zhang was treated three years ago, but five clinics contacted by AFP in the last month claimed to offer “sexuality adjustment” through various means, some of them including hypnosis, drugs and electric shock therapy.

The Haiming Psychological Consulting Center in Beijing touts the use of electricity on its website, saying: “After each shock, the person will quickly interrupt their thought, and separate from their fantasies.”

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