’Effeminate’ Malaysian Boys Sent to Camp to ’Man Up’--GLBT Advocates Alarmed
Sixty-six schoolboys in Malaysia between the ages of 13 - 17 have been identified by teachers as "effeminate" and are being sent to a camp to man up before it's too late and they "go gay," news sources reported on April 21.
The education director of the heavily Muslim nation said that the effort to eradicate unmanly habits before the lads reach a "point of no return" is in their best interests, a Taipei Times article said.
"Some effeminate boys end up as a transvestite or a homosexual, but we want to do our best to limit this," said Razali Daud.
"Such effeminate behavior is unnatural and will affect their studies and their future," Daud reckoned.
The article said that the boys would receive religious instruction and physical training at the camp, which is slated to last for four days. The camp is being referred to as a "self-development course," the article said.
Daud denied that the boys were forced to go, saying that they had been "invited" to the program. After the four-day program, he added, the adults in their lives will watch over their continued masculine development.
"It is not an overnight cure," said Daud. "We can't force the boys to change, but we want them to know what their choices are in life." Daud also said that the program was intended as a means "to guide them back to the right path in life before they reach a point of no return"--presumably to homosexuality.
Sexual expression between consenting adults of the same gender is illegal in Malaysia. The punishment is severe--up to 20 years in prison. GLBT equality advocates there spoke out nonetheless.
"If we don't do anything to stop the rot of homophobia ... I worry it may get worse," said Pang Khee Teik of GLBT rights group Seksualiti Merdeka. "All the students will learn from these camps is that they are expected to behave a certain way. And in order to avoid further ridicule, perhaps they will learn to pretend better. In the end, we are only teaching them how to be a hypocrite."
The BBC News reported on April 20 that the Malaysian women's minister, Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, objected to the plan, saying that it violates the country's child protection law.
"We should send a clear message to institutions that they have no business meddling with an individual's identity and personal preference," said Malaysian rights organization the Joint Action Group for Gender Equality in a statement.
The group condemned what it called "corrective boot camps" and went on to say that the program "should be strongly opposed and challenged as it promotes homophobia and prejudice."
Religiously motivated groups in the United States operate under a similar philosophy, offering "reparative therapy" that purports to "cure" gays and "convert" them to heterosexuality.
Many gays reject the suggestion that their sexuality is a matter of choice. Mental health professionals agree, by and large, and warn that "reparative therapy" risks doing more harm than good to individuals seeking to alter their innate sexual urges.
Some individuals claim that they have been able to suppress homosexual feelings and cultivate heterosexual responses, but what is unknown is how many such individuals may be bisexual or may have been passing through a youthful stage of sexual experimentation during the time they claim to have identified as gay. Many heterosexual individuals do go through a transient period of such experimentation.
Others describe a "cure" that entails daily "struggles" with same-sex attraction, or involves the suppression of all sexual appetite and leads to an asexual existence in which conscious thoughts and feelings of attraction are denied.
Still others have divorced themselves from such programs and declared themselves to be "survivors" of the "ex-gay" movement.
Scientific research increasingly points to human sexual orientation as a complex--and inborn--quality, suggesting that GLBTs, far from suffering some form of pathology, are representative of natural variations in sexuality.
The American Psychiatric Association struck homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses in 1973.