AndrÃ© Bekker and his wife Lina
The LGBT community has been warned about a South African organisation that is claiming to “heal” people from unwanted same-sex attraction.
This week, Mambaonline, along with numerous other LGBT groups and organisations received an e-mail from AndrÃ© Bekker, director of the South African branch of the US-based International Healing Foundation in Kempton Park.
The organisation describes its aims as “helping men and women heal from unwanted same-sex attraction, to assist family members and friends whose loved ones experience same-sex attraction, and to educate the religious and secular communities about the truth of same-sex attraction”.
According to the International Healing Foundation, same-sex attraction is caused by “unresolved childhood wounds and unmet love needs that leads to gender confusion”.
In the letter, Bekker – who claims to be a “Certified Sexual Reorientation Coach” – says that he believes “that bridges can be build [sic] and that we can share with each other and understand each other with respect and love”.
He also offers the organisation’s services to the LGBT community: “If we can assist you and your community with education, speaking on certain topics regarding same-sex attraction, or counselling and therapy, you are more than welcome to contact me.”
SA GLAAD’s Christina Engela responded to the letter with alarm: “These groups do not only prey on gay people, they also target children experiencing doubts about their sexuality, as well as bisexual and transgender people. Parents are known to pack their children off forcibly to their facilities for ‘camps’ to shame them and isolate them into denying who they are.”
She added: “We have to assume that this is a sign that the mostly silent ‘ex-gay’ movement in South Africa, which has been here for over a decade now, is gearing up for a major offensive against our community.”
Engela described groups such as the International Healing Foundation as “charlatans and a danger to human rights, freedom of expression and the well-being of individuals within our community” and warned LGBT people not to comply with their requests under any circumstances.
Mainstream medical and scientific organisations around the world have rejected conversion therapy as unscientific, unethical and potentially dangerous.
“The scientific fields devoted to mental health and well-being, including psychiatry, psychology and sociology, do not consider homosexual orientation to be a disorder, but rather view it as a naturally occurring variation of normal human sexuality”, stated the Psychological Society of South Africa (PsySSA) earlier this year.