A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality: Hong Kong library under fire for 'anti-gay propaganda'

Activists for sexual minorities say Central Library should consider putting a warning on book it carries on 'preventing homosexuality' in children

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 July, 2014, 5:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 May, 2017, 12:44pm

A gay rights group has suggested a disclaimer may be needed for a library book that openly encourages parents to "prevent" homosexuality in their children.

Available in the Central Library's adult lending section, A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality is co-authored by controversial American psychologist Joseph Nicolosi, who practises gay conversion therapy.

The book uses real-life anecdotes of parenting experiences to illustrate what the author claims is a parent's role in the child's sexuality.

Gay rights activist Betty Grisoni, co-founder of Hong Kong's largest lesbian organisation Les Peches and director of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) cultural festival Pink Season, said the book should remain on the shelf as a matter of "freedom of expression".

However, she said: "The widespread virulent prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping against sexual minorities [in] publications directly promoting homophobia should be carefully handled by public libraries.

"This could mean that such publications should perhaps carry a disclaimer."

Such a disclaimer would likely point to the scientific community's opposition to gay conversion therapy, widely regarded as dangerous pseudo-science.

The American Psychiatric Association has condemned such treatments as unethical. In 2012 Robert Spitzer, who some consider the father of modern psychology, apologised for a flawed study in 2001 that suggested the therapy could work.

Bess Hepworth, of Rainbow Families and Out Leadership, said: "I am all for respecting free speech but books like Nicolosi's amount to anti-gay propaganda and are forms of hate."

Liberal Party district councillor Peter Shiu Ka-fai, spokesman for a campaign against gay marriage, said he was in favour of the book's presence in the library.

But he was concerned that such adult-oriented subject matter may still be available to under-12s, in spite of the fact that it was in the adult lending section.

"We worry they don't have the maturity or the sense to recognise normal things," Shiu said.

The book has been loaned out 89 times since 2005 and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), which is responsible for public libraries, has received no complaints to date.

The department said its collection was guided by the Unesco Public Library Manifesto, which "neither takes sides in public issues nor attempts to promote any beliefs or points of view".

Six public libraries currently stock Daddy, Papa and Me, and Mommy, Mama and Me, two other books aimed at children with strong themes of families with same-sex parents.

Opponents of same-sex marriage are critical of these books and have called for their removal, saying they go against family values. The LCSD maintains the books should remain available.

It's not the first time a Hong Kong government department has been accused of homophobia. In 2011, the Social Welfare Department courted controversy after inviting a psychiatrist who believes in conversion therapy.

Authorities in Singapore, however, sparked outrage for removing three gay-themed books after a parent complained the books were against family values.

City-state officials claimed that most Singaporeans were socially conservative and do not accept homosexuality.