The openly gay Indian prince Manvendra Singh Gohil has joined calls for conversion therapy ban years after his parents forced him to endure electroshock treatment.
Gohil, the son of the Maharaja of Rajpipla in Gujarat, has previously spoken of how his parents made him undergo electroshock therapy by threatening to jump into a well if he refused.
Their efforts to ‘cure’ his sexuality failed, and he is now calling for all forms of the discredited practise to be banned in India and across the world.
“I was myself a victim of conversion therapy from my parents,” he told Forbes from his royal establishment of Hanumanteshwar. “When I came out, the first thing they tried to do was convert me. They wouldn’t accept me as a gay child.
“They tried to ask the doctors to operate on me. They took me to religious leaders to ask them to cure me.”
The pseudoscientific practise of conversion therapy ranges from the electric shocks Gohil endured to psychoanalysis, aversion treatments, nausea-inducing drugs or simply ‘praying the gay away’, but all forms have been rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organisation for decades.
Yet conversion therapies are still legal in much of the world and have only been outlawed in five countries: Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan.
The prince acknowledged the experience is common in India, and often far worse for LGBT+ women.
“Lesbians are treated so badly, I’ve known cases where the family member will rape the child to prove she can have sex with a man. That proves you are heterosexual,” he said.
“Indian parents are fearful of [people in] society, relatives, neighbours. I always say, [LGBT+ people] coming out to their parents is easier, than parents coming out about [having LGBT+ children] to the rest of the world.”
Another Indian royal, Amar Singh, added his voice to Gohil’s campaign. He likened the extreme tortures he’d seen in conversion therapy centres to “gas chambers” of the Holocaust.
“They are fronts for unethical practices. You’re told if you are not cured, and you go back to your father – he will kill you,” he said.
“I have visited dozens [of conversion therapy centres] in India, and spoken to people running them. I have held men young and old in my arms, crying, after they’ve been kicked out of their houses.”
As the global movement to end conversion therapy grows, UK prime minister Boris Johnson reaffirmed his commitment to a ban after his party was criticised for dragging its feet on the matter in the two years since it announced plans to end the practise.
“Gay conversion therapy is absolutely abhorrent, and it has no place in a civilised society and has no place in this country,” Johnson said, adding that he would bring about plans to ban it only after the government had conducted a study first.
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