The Social Welfare Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) organized a workshop for social workers on curing homosexuality of their young clients on 17 June 2011. Dr. Hong Kwai-wah, a registered psychiatrist notoriously known for his private practice of conversion therapy (i.e. changing sexual orientation from homosexuality to heterosexuality) wasinvited by the Department to provide training to the social workers in this workshop. He is also thechairperson of the New Creation Association, which is founded in the belief that homosexuality is asin that the Bible condemns and is a close ally to another equally notorious local Christian rightgroup the Truth Light Society in its many causes against equal rights and protection of LBGTpeople in Hong Kong. We found that the workshop has highly likely contravened 10 internationaland local charters and covenants by spreading prejudices and pathologizing homosexuality. Westrongly urged that the Department immediately stops organizing similar workshops in the future.
Conversion therapy, or reparative therapy, is a pseudo-science advocated and promoted worldwideby American-based Christian Right groups. In Hong Kong, it is primarily introduced by the NewCreation Association, an ally to the Truth Light Society. The Association teaches thathomosexuality is either a mental disorder because of family disfunction in the childhood ordemonic possession. Clients who seek conversion therapy are taught to stay celibacy or repress theirsame-sex desire by, for instance, having a cold shower or praying homosexuality away. Majorpsychological and psychiatric associations such as American Psychological Association andAmerican Psychiatric Association have already denounced conversion therapy for itsunsubstantiated claims and consequential harms done to its clients. Many scholars have exposedthat advocates of conversion therapy often exaggerates the success rate by adopting a shiftingdefinition of “successful change”. Those who claim to have successfully changed their sexualorientation are, in fact, staying in celibacy or repressing their same-sex desire without developingsexual attraction towards opposite sex. Worse still, it has been proven in a number of longitudinalstudies that conversion therapy is highly harmful in inducing anxiety, self-hatred, sexual disfunction,attempted suicide and suicide leading to death.
It has been 38 years and 21 years since the American Psychiatric Association and the World HealthOrganization removed homosexuality from their lists of mental disorders in 1973 and 1990respectively. Homosexuality is now understood to be a sexuality in the rich human sexualexperiences and identities. By inviting Dr. Hong Kwai-wah to speak to youth social workers oncuring homosexuality, the Social Welfare Department has implicitly endorsed an unscientific,prejudiced and unethical medical abuse that does harm to LBGT people. The workshop is found tohave violated the following charters and covenants:
1. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Guidelines on Code of Practice forRegistered Social Workers stipulated by the Social Workers Registration Board, HKSAR(the Code stipulates that registered social workers should “respect the unique value and dignityof every human being irrespective of one’s ... sexual orientation” [Part 1 - Basic Values andBeliefs]);
2. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the World Health Organization’sposition on sexual orientation (the World Health Organization removed homosexuality fromits list of mental disorders on 17 May 1990);
3. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Hong Kong Bill of Rights (theCourt of Final Appeal rules that the “other status” in the Hong Kong Bill of Rights includesexual orientation and discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is unconstitutional);
4. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Convention of the Rights of theChild (advocates of conversion therapy often targets young people and persuade their parentsto send their lesbian and gay children to treatment. It effectively strips the children of the rightto scientific information on sexual orientation. The Department violates Article 29 of theConvention: “the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physicalabilities to their fullest potential” );
5. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR -violates the Convention on the Elimination ofAll Forms of Discrimination against Women;
6. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the sexual health position of theWorld Association for Sexual Health (the Association contends that “there is insufficient,sound, scientific evidence supporting the claim that attempt to modify a person’s sexualorientation actually works and are helpful to people”);
7. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Guidelines on Sex Education inSchools issued by the Curriculum Development Council, HKSAR (the Guidelines suggeststhat when teaching sex education, sex should be regarded as part of a healthy life. Sex isneither sinful nor shameful. It also advises teachers to guide students to understand and respectdifferent sexual orientations sexual values);
8. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Code of Practice againstDiscrimination in Employment on the Ground of Sexual Orientation issued by theConstitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, HKSAR (the workshop is an implicitendorsement of a homophobic attitude towards homosexuality by the Social WelfareDepartment, which in effect creates a working environment that LBGT people find unfriendlyand insulting);
9. Dr. Hong Kwai-wah violates the Code of Professional Conduct by Medical Council,HKSAR (as a registered medical doctor, Dr. Hong Kwai-wah violates the Code of ProfessionalConduct by delivering information that is exaggerated, misleading, sensational or undulypersuasive, and generate unrealistic expectations [184.108.40.206]. And being prejudiced by hisreligious faith that homosexuality is a sin and demonic possession, he should ask clients toseek medical advice from another registered medical doctor);
10. Social Welfare Department of the HKSAR violates the Chinese Classification of MentalDisordersPathologization of homosexuality is an incitement to sexual orientation discrimination because itlegitimizes the act of discrimination by arguing that homosexuals deserve no equal rights andprotection but medical treatments.
We strongly urge the Social Welfare Department to:
- immediately stop doing harm to the LBGT community
- issue an apology to the harm and contempt it has done to the community
- immediately review all events and activities and make sure that no one of them incites hatredagainst LBGT people, spreads bigotry and pseudo-science of conversion therapy
- establish policy that eliminates sexual orientation discrimination
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