Report details impact of conversion therapy on LGBTQ+ South Africans
PRETORIA, South Africa – So-called conversion therapy is still widely practiced in South Africa, impacting the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.
Over the years, families, schools, religious sects and peer groups have been used to try to convert those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community into conforming to the heterosexual narrative presented as ” homogeneous”. Access-Chapter 2, a South African NGO, in a recent study found that conversion therapy is found to be more harmful to society and could have serious repercussions in the future if left unchecked. to remedy.
“The LGBTQIA+ community has always been a site of erasure, silence and marginalization in many of our communities. This erasure has been normalized throughout the history of civilization, especially in the context of Africa, where most countries still criminalize homosexual desire. Through this study, we see a problematic trajectory regarding this erasure even in contemporary South African societies,” the study reads.
The study notes that 50% of respondents “reported being forced to convert by their families, while 43% (of respondents) had a session with a religious representative or institution as a parental intervention. , families or communities”.
“Despite visible efforts to expose the conversion practices of LGBTQIA+ lobby groups, these practices are still prevalent. The impact is even more detrimental, with most of our participants having directly experienced discrimination, prejudice, homophobia , transphobia or stigma from their families, churches, psychosocial service providers, schools and the rest of the community,” it read.
A total of 303 respondents took part in an online survey, and the results of the study were shared with various LGBTQ+ civil society organizations and on social media platforms.
Respondents came from nine provinces: 149 from Gauteng, nine from Mpumalanga, 36 from the Free State, 24 from the North West, two from the Northern Cape, seven from KwaZulu-Natal, 42 from the Eastern Cape, 28 from the Western Cape and 14 from Limpopo . . Seven respondents identified as white, while five identified as mixed race and 209 as black African.
A total of 144 respondents identified as lesbian, while 91 described themselves as gay. Twenty-five respondents identified as bisexual and 31 said they were heterosexual. 183 respondents described themselves as Christian, while 74 said they practiced a traditional African religion. Forty respondents said they did not associate themselves with any religion, while one said they were Hindu and another described themselves as Muslim.
“Parents are the main perpetrators of conversion practices and initiators of external sources to fix individuals whose sexual orientation does not correspond to heterosexuality,” the study notes. “Parents argue that same-sex sexual and romantic desires are not innate and therefore engage in efforts to change their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Some seek professional therapies or religious interventions for a child’s same-sex sexual orientation or non-heterosexual gender identity, while others consider traditional remedies. The study raised distinct ethical concerns about appropriate consent, as parents and authority figures would exert pressure on minors.
“Despite parental trust in religion to fix sexual orientation and non-normative gender expressions, churches outside of family demand continue to control gender expressions. Participants said they were consistently harassed because of dress, identity expression and attractions that didn’t match their birth-assigned sex,” he adds. “They couldn’t be open about their romantic partners and their LGBTQIA+ friendships Community members of the same religious organizations would flag members who are seen with LGBTQIA+ people, and their religious and spiritual status would be instantly questioned. particular spiritual gift, whether singing in the worship team, praying for others, or an usher, were recalled from such positions as their way of life was judged demonic.
The study further notes that many respondents have experienced “engagement with professional psychological services that subjected them to conversion practices.”
“Those who have been subjected to psychological services have been coerced by their parents to attend. They reported that parents said it was normal to experience a phase of confusion about sexual orientation and non-normative gender identity and that therapy could help. Participants also reported that the therapist seemed to be under pressure to get them fixed because these services are expensive. Those who attended therapeutic interventions were subjected to the narrative of confusion and at some point they were desperate to be cured of it,” he says. “Families have also sought help from traditional healers.”
Study respondents reported “that they had to be immersed in rivers and dams to be cleansed while others were fed potions that would release the demonic spirit.”
“Traditional practices would continue at home with frequent follow-up consultations with traditional practitioners,” he says. “While the participants were aware that the goal was to cure them of their abnormal sexual orientation, they were not always aware of the substances that were administered to them. The participants were also subjected to violence such as beatings and beatings. slaps during healing process with traditional healers They reported that they had been bewitched and were not fully aware of all that they were subjected to.
“Participants, particularly those who identify as lesbians, also shared how they live in fear as they are continually subjected to threats of rape and even murder. As a result, many lesbian couples cannot embrace their true selves and cannot openly and safely express their public affection. Participants mentioned the common practice and spades of LGBTQIA+ killings in South Africa and how it forces them to live a hidden lifestyle.
The study, which is a notable breakthrough in research to conceptualize conversion therapy in the context of South Africa and also the first formal evidence of the harmfulness of conversion practices across the country, further highlighted highlights the impact of conversion therapy, recommendations and how to avoid despicable acts.
“Participants in this study have shown that there are various psychosocial effects on LGBTQIA+ people who have been subjected to conversion practices. Social factors such as discrimination, prejudice, homophobia, transphobia and stigma can create hostile and stressful social environments for LGBTQIA+ people,” he notes. “It left individuals plagued with social rejection and feeling compelled to hide their identities. In some cases, individuals also adopted unhealthy coping processes and their mental health was negatively affected. Some of the mental health impacts of conversion practices include depression, social anxiety, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts and attempts, altered body image, and other mental health issues. Individuals also experienced shame, guilt, despair, helplessness, heightened self-hatred, and social withdrawal. It is also known that conversion practices too often lead to serious emotional damage.
Participants who experienced conversion in school mentioned that learning was affected to the point that some dropped out of school. Others indicated risky behaviors such as unprotected sex to develop a sense of belonging while some indulged in heavy drinking. These experiences left participants vulnerable even in their early adult development.
The study also found that those who undergo conversion therapy are at higher risk for depression and anxiety and are more likely to die by suicide.
“This study could not identify a single participant who could confirm that conversion therapy was effective,” it read.
The study further notes that despite South Africa having “one of the most progressive constitutions and LGBTQIA+ inclusive legislation in the world, the social reality represents quite the opposite.”
“Religious, cultural, professional and social scenarios always maintain, produce and perpetuate obligatory heteronormativity, therefore, conversion practices could pass as normal and acceptable in all areas,” it reads. “Conversion practices emanate directly from privileging heterosexuality as the norm and the natural. All other forms of expression are deemed unacceptable, sinful and un-African. This is despite the Constitution which affirms and protects diverse sexual orientations, expressions of sex and gender.
“We therefore call for legislation that would urgently prohibit conversion practices in the South African context,” said Access-Chapter 2. “Professional institutions such as the medical and psychological fraternity should be made aware of the harmful effects of This form of education should be part of ongoing and initial training All civil society organizations should be empowered to support people who have been subjected to conversion practices Supported services for beneficiaries conversion practices should be widely published to publicize interventions, care and support.
Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa correspondent.