Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Treatments of homosexuality in Britain since the 1950s—an oral history: the experience of professionals

BMJ 2004; 328 doi: (Published 19 February 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:429

Rapid Response:

Treatment of homosexuality in the South African Defence Force during the Apartheid years.

In their article, the authors reveal some of the personal views and
of medical and psychology professionals in the United Kingdom who
attempted to make homosexual men and women heterosexual in the 20th

These experiences however must rank as relatively mild compared to
appalling events in South Africa Defence Force [SADF] during the
years, known as the Aversion Project.

There were horrifying revelations at the TRC. Over an 18 year period
900 men
and women were coerced into having sex change surgery after the crude
attempts at behaviour therapy failed.

This atrocity, which must rank as one of the worst abuses in
psychiatry since
World War 2, went on with the full conivance of the military authorities
regarded homosexuality as an intolerable defect that had to be weeded out
the conscript ranks. Victims were often handed in for treatment after they
confessed to the regimental chaplain.

Victims were discharged from the SADF with no support, in some cases
the surgical conversion incomplete. The psychiatrists who ran this system
have not been brought to justice and one is reported to have a prestigious

position in an overseas country.

The South African medical establishment has many sins [such as the
death of
Steve Biko] to answer for during the Apartheid years. The failure to act,
retrospectively about these psychiatric abuses is quite inexcusable.

Dr Robert Kaplan

[Kaplan R. The Aversion Project – Psychiatric abuses in the South
Defence Force during the Apartheid Era. South African Medical Journal
2001, 90-3;216-217.]

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

20 February 2004
Robert M Kaplan