The UK government is a major aid donor, funding clinics in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania offering so-called “conversion therapies”, which pressure gay people to “give up” same-sex attraction. . investigation has found.
In a six-month undercover investigation of the centers, reporters from the global news website openDemocracy were told that being gay is “bad”, “for whites” and a mental health problem. These included facilities linked to some of the world’s largest aid donors, including USAid and the British government fund, UK Aid, run by organizations such as UK-based MSI Reproductive Choices (formerly Marie Stopes International). , and Global Fund, based in Switzerland.
Yvee Oduor of the Kenya Gay and Lesbian Coalition asked aid donors to redirect their funds, adding that “we already have LGBTQI + run clinics and health centers across the country. Why not fund these community initiatives? “
Conversion therapy Physical treatment or psychotherapy that aims to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Has been convicted of more than 60 associations of doctors, psychologists and counselors around the world.
The British government pledged to introduce a ban on conversion therapy in 2018, but announced in May that a public consultation will take place before action is taken. International Amnesty This week he urged the government to urgently introduce a “total ban” on conversion therapy, fearing that a consultation could lead to the opt-out of religious groups.
OpenDemocracy reporters said they visited facilities that had been flagged in previous investigations with more than 50 LGBTQ + people in East Africa. Conversion therapy activities were found in 12 of the 15 clinics they visited. Counseling was the most common method of conversion therapy offered, and in Uganda a reporter posing as the older sister of a 17-year-old was told to get her sleeping pills to prevent her from masturbating.
“Although we followed up on medical leads, many interviewees shared experiences of conversion therapy practices in family, religious and work settings,” said reporter Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said it does not specifically fund the MSI Reproductive Choices program mentioned in the openDemocracy report, adding that it “conducts rigorous evaluations before supporting any organization” and that the UK government “stands by. strongly opposes abhorrent practice. ” conversion therapy and agrees to introduce a ban in the UK. ” MSI Reproductive Choices said it has launched an investigation into the allegations and “strongly condemns this harmful and unethical practice, which goes against everything we stand for as an organization.”
Javan Ariana, 23, a transgender sex worker, recounted her experience going to a government hospital in Uganda. “I registered my preferred names and one of them asked me if I am a man or a woman. I explained that I was born a man but that I feel like a woman. They immediately advised me, prayed for me and told me that what I was doing was bad, “said Ariana, who was told that she was” evil “and that” I was going to die young.
“A nurse said she couldn’t get treatment in the hospital because the government says we can’t treat those people, but I know the law says I have the right to health,” said Ariana, who was told to bring ” other people like her ”to the hospital so that they too could be“ cured ”.
“After listening to those conversations I was left traumatized and scared, thinking that they could even give me the wrong medication and maybe I would end up dying. I didn’t even get the medication I needed, I just went home and was left with my illness. “
Under colonial law, gay sex is punishable by life imprisonment in Uganda. The Sex Crimes Bill of 2019, which is awaiting presidential approval, reduces the sentence to 10 years, but has expanded the criminalization of homosexuality to include the criminalization of women who have sex with women.
in a statement In May, Human Rights Watch director for Africa, Mausi Segundo, called on President Museveni to reject the bill, which she says “does not do enough for survivors, combines consensual sexual acts with violence, and offers tools to persecute LGBT people and sex workers in Uganda. “
The investigation found that an HIV clinic in a Kampala public hospital, which specifically cares for marginalized groups, including LGBTQ + people, was implicated. The clinic is run by the Ugandan organization Most At Risk Populations Initiative (Marpi), which won a USAid grant of $ 420,000 (£ 305,000) in 2019 and receives funding from the Global Fund. USAid did not respond to The Guardian’s request for comment. The Global Fund said it had “zero tolerance for any action that limits access to health services or that may encourage or promote any form of discrimination or violence.”
Tevin, 21, was taken to therapy by her father at another Kampala hospital when she was 18. The psychiatrist asked Tevin how gay he felt on a scale of one to 10. “I told him 10, why would I feel less? I’ve been gay my whole life, ”Tevin said. “She told my dad that if he paid, he could have brain surgery to correct me, but that I had to finish high school first.” She said she was willing to move on if it would straighten her out and make her parents happy. Tevin believes that the psychiatrist may have been trying to extort money from her family, but the effect was that she felt “sick and damaged, as if she needed to be treated.”
“If you are a person who has self-denial, it will give you a false hope that you can be what you are not. It also eliminates the possibility of parents accepting us for who we are, because they think they can pay money to straighten us out.
“It just makes life so much more difficult for us.”