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A Chinese LGBT+ activist who underwent electric shock therapy in a treatement designed to cure people of being gay is taking legal action to outlaw the practice.
In what could be a major boost to gay rights in the country, Xiao Zhen is challenging the common belief among the population that homosexuality is an illness.
Mr Zhen said he chose to undergo the therapy simply to gather evidence about the practice, ‘I had electric shock therapy only once,’ he told the BBC. ‘Imagine those who’ve had it many times.’
Although China officially stopped viewing homosexuality as a mental illness more than 10 years ago, there are still many clinics which offer this therapy.
Discrimination against gay people is still rife in the country, despite signs of greater official tolerance. At a recent demonstration at a Beijing medical conference, one protestor’s placard declared: ‘Being gay is not an illness!’
However, the reaction of doctors attending the event was symptomatic of the country’s general attitude with one delegate simply saying, ‘We cannot support homosexuality.’
Perhaps to appear more sympathetic, another doctor added: ‘Although we try to understand it.’
The Chinese Government has permitted Mr Zhen’s case against electric shock-therapy for LGBT people to be heard later this month.