The debate over gay conversion therapy continues both within the U.S. and in South Africa, as Alex de Koker, owner of Echo Wild Game Rangers (one hour south of Johannesburg, South Africa), is on trial for the death of a 15-year-old “effeminate” teen who had been sent to his camp to “man up.”
Raymond Buys was sent to the camp by his mother, Wilma Buys, who believed the course would “make him a better man, to give him a better future.”
Instead, camp attendee Gerhard Oosthuzen, 19, recently testified in court that Buys was chained to his bed every night, commonly refused permission to visit the toilet, and even forced to eat his own feces.
Oosthuizen also testified that Buys suffered from extreme bodily weakness and struggled to engage in the manual labor the boys were forced to perform each day. Additionally, Buys was beaten with planks and sticks when he couldn’t find the strength to do his chores properly.
Just before Buys was released from the camp and admitted to the hospital, Oosthuizen testified that he saw de Koker and his employee Michael Erasmus electrocute Buys, as he was naked and tied to a chair. The teen died two weeks later, with hospital reports indicating he was severely emaciated, dehydrated, and had sustained several skull fractures and cigarette burns all over his body.
This isn’t de Koker’s first time in court. In 2007, 18-year-old Eric Calitz and 19-year-old Nicolaas Van der Walt both died in similar circumstances. According to reports, both were perceived as gay and effeminate. Camp attendees shared that de Koker often told Calitz that he wasn’t a “moffie” (i.e. “fag”), and he “would make a man out of him.”
Instead, Calitz died from bleeding in the brain after apparently being struck. Strangely enough, the camp SMS’d Calitz’s family and told them that he had died of a heart attack. Van der Walt appeared to have been choked with a seat-belt, but the courts determined he died of a heart attack.
Surrounding the to the two 2007 deaths, de Koker got off with a suspended sentence over Calitz’s dealth, and the court found Van der Walt’s death the result of natural causes. In response to the Raymond Buys case, both de Koker and Erasmus have pleaded not guilty — however, Oosthuizen’s testimony could be enough to find both men guilty.
While the Echo Wild Game Rangers program is an extreme example of gay reparative therapy, gay advocates agree the case undoubtedly signals the need for increased dialog on the subject.
Within the United States, the concept of reparative therapy is a growing debate. California signed a bill into law in 2012 banning gay conversion therapy for minors (which is now under review), as mental health experts largely deem the practices as dangerous and harmful to youth.
According to the American Psychological Association Website, “To date, there has been no scientifically adequate research to show that therapy aimed at changing sexual orientation (sometimes called reparative or conversion therapy) is safe or effective.”
When considering the current court case in Africa, it is easy to assume the same can’t occur in the U.S. Yet, recent comments made by public figures make many wonder.
– “Get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight.” – DJ Dominic Deter
– “Parents should punch their girlish sons and crack their limp wrists.” – Pastor Sean Harris
– “I figured out a ways to get rid of the lesbians and the queers, but I couldn’t get it passed congress. Build a great big, large fence… put all the lesbians in there… do the same with all the queers and homosexuals… and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out… and in a few years they’ll die out because they can’t reproduce.” – Pastor Charles Worley
– “The biggest hypocrite in the world is the person who believes in the death penalty for murderers and not homosexuals. The God who instituted the death penalty for rapists and for homosexuals – sodomite, queers!” – Pastor Steven L. Anderson
– “Seriously, they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I’m wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide,” An Arkansas School Board member (in his defense, he later apologized publicly via CNN for his comments).
While Americans are the owners of free speech, gay advocates plead on a daily basis for those in power positions to realize the impact they have on those who listen to their words.
A perfect example is as follows, as pastor Sean Harris draws applause and laughter from his congregation for suggesting physical and mental punishment for kids appearing to be gay: