Authorities in Hong Kong are still recommending so-called ‘gay cure’ therapy to vulnerable youths, charities in the city have claimed.
The Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong and Her Fund say social workers continue to offer conversion therapy to young people who say they’re struggling with their sexuality.
The Hong Kong government refused to ban the practice in 2010, despite campaigners presenting extensive evidence to the Legislative Council that the practice can do serious harm to individuals.
The therapy advocates that participants regularly pray, abstain from same-sex relationships and take cold showers in an attempt to stop themselves having homosexual desires.
The widely condemned practice also includes giving patients electric shocks.
Yeo Wai-wai, a spokeswoman for the Women’s Coalition of Hong Kong, said teenagers she works with had revealed social workers were recommending the therapy.
“This practice is damaging to oneself because therapists are claiming that the individual is not good enough, by not being heterosexual,” she said.
“[It] will damage their self-image. They will feel like a loser and may have suicidal thoughts.”
Casey Kwok Ka-chai, from Her Fund, a charity which supports victims of domestic violence and which encounters sexual minorities, said she too had been made aware of social workers referring teens to conversion therapists.
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“They do not have enough knowledge and enough empathy towards these sexual minorities,” she said.
“If these people are already seeking counselling services and you are referring them to conversion therapy, you are not helping them; you are doing harm.
You are telling them they have a problem, but sexual orientation is not problematic. It is a natural thing.”
Ms Kwok said the practice was “putting another layer of pressure” on vulnerable LGBT people.
There is no evidence the ‘therapy’ can change a person’s sexuality and the World Health Organisation says sexual orientation should not be treated as a disorder.
The British Medical Association condemned ‘gay cure’ therapy has harmful and flawed in 2010.
Refusing to say whether conversion therapy is the city’s policy, a spokeswoman told the South China Morning Post they: “respect the uniqueness of each and every individual irrespective of his/her race, gender, age, sexual orientation”.
Hong Kong’s authorities, pressed on the issue, have claimed they advocate “multiple perspectives” when social workers make decisions on looking after young people.