LGBT Human Rights and Mental Health: Psychiatric Abuse of Same-Sex Sexualities and Tongzhi Well-Being in China

Human rights of sexual minorities and their violation have a direct impact on the mental health of these populations. Over the past decade, the international human rights movement for sexual minorities has established a strong network that has been active in promoting and protecting sexual minorities in developing countries. The Yogyakarta Principles on the Application of International Law in Relation to Issues of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity are the most impressive example of such a successful global collaboration between experts from around the world.

The Yogyakarta Principles was launched in March of 2007 at the UN Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva, where 54 states had called for the council to act against egregious violations of the rights of sexual minorities. They confirm legal standards for how governments and other actors should end violence, abuse, and discrimination against sexual minorities, and ensure full equality. Principle 18 of the document calls for the protection of sexual minorities from medical abuses. With regard to mental health, the Yogyakarta Principles call on the human rights, medical, and mental health communities to: “Ensure that any medical or psychological treatment or counseling does not, explicitly or implicitly, treat sexual orientation and gender identity as medical conditions to be treated, cured or suppressed.”

In academia, scholars traditionally have shared research interests in sexuality and gender mostly through international meetings and email exchanges ( e.g. listservs). However, relatively little effort has been made to create community and academic partnerships that conduct systematic and participatory research on the relationship between human rights and mental health. In part, the dearth of participatory research is due to the difficulties of establishing the rapport required to conduct research in its natural environment and the absence of mental health research capacity in many developing countries.

In partnership with local community leaders, RIWW collaborative research will respond to inequality in access to HIV prevention/care and mental health services, the corresponding crisis of human rights in sexual minorities, and contribute to public policy-making through empirical research. The community-academic partnership in action-oriented research will have a significant impact by increasing the awareness of victimization against sexual minorities in the broader context of international human rights issues and promoting mental health professionals’ involvement in social justice around the world. Modeling such international collaborative research can help in capacity building in developing countries, improving local ability to conduct mental health research, utilize results effectively, and promote demand for further research.

Attending will be researchers and activists who might want to contribute to our research project on conversion therapies and other human right violations with LGBT persons. The forum will discuss collaborative and participatory global research on mental health, psychiatric and psychological interventions, and human rights of sexual minorities. In particular, the forum will develop the research plan of sexual orientation conversion therapy in China and explore how to implement and extend the study to other regions.


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