Shock Treatment

Christina Engela's picture
I would like to praise the Canadian authorities for apprehending Dr. Aubrey Levin, aka "Dr. Shock" - a man who is believed to have fled to Canada to avoid facing the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission in the 1990's - and for launching an inquiry into his activities in Canada - and also for investigating charges of human rights abuses from when he was in South Africa.

I welcome the fact that all criminal cases in Canada in which this person has participated as an "expert" witness for the prosecution, are currently being reviewed. Who knows, there may be innocent people sitting in prison or mental institutions because of his prejudice. I also applaud the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta for suspending Levin’s license to practice (that's really great - I really, really like that part). I also applaud Canada for the over-all thoroughness evident in the way this sensitive issue is being handled. I can guess how long this would take over here in sunny South Africa.

Firstly, the case itself would probably be put off until sometime after the Soccer World cup - because we all know how much more important that is than boring old human rights - giving it another six months for the public to forget it ever happened, so that the bail appications could go off without a noisy protest outside the court room. Then, it would probably take six more months to find the missing dockets, if ever - and then, like another prominent homophobe in this country, Mr Levin would probably be impossible to locate to be subpoenaed for his court appearance.

The cynical side of me would expect to find him occupying a government office in a South African embassy, perhaps in Burundi or Rwanda - seeing as the job in Uganda is already taken - by Jon Qwelane.

It is amazing that people can commit hate crimes, and just conveniently not show up in court when they are charged to - and nobody, not even the Government or Judicial Authority it seems, can do anything about it - other than to offer them a job as a foreign Ambassador, of course.

But let me just default on paying a television licence - or a parking fine - and see how quickly I get dragged to court. Clearly I am not important enough (yet) to warrant a get out of jail free card. But I am working hard at it, and one day, who knows? Perhaps one day I might even manage to become a Premier of a South African province who needn't bother to pay 17000 zar in speeding fines over a four-year period - and still expect whistle-blowers to be investigated for "corruption".

Were the matter of Levin (and also Qwelane) not so utterly disappointing, and mixed with human tragedy - I would roar with laughter - and as anyone who has heard me (a rather large blonde female) roar with laughter, could tell you - that is funny indeed.

Naturally, I express my genuine heartfelt sympathies and solidarity with the unfortunate Canadian victims coming forward. Apparently there are 29 of them now. I laud the bravery and ingenuity of the man who broke this case wide open by recording the alleged offence electronically - after his earlier official complaints were disbelieved and ignored. (I wonder how many times this has happened in the past - without the benefit of such a recording?) It is indeed a pity that the technology which brought about Levin's undoing in Canada did not exist at the height of his power in South Africa. I can well remember the heightened paranoia about information security back in the old days, when mobile phones crossed the line of science fiction and into the pockets of everybody - including civil servants. You couldn't even take one into a meeting back in those days. Now people casually while away boring lectures on MXIT.

For years now, Aubrey Levin has threatened publications and investigators with law suits to dissuade them from pursuing investigations into his activities, and relying on the legal premise that he has not been found guilty and therfore has to be innocent - and yet he has never been charged, has intentionally avoided facing such charges - and has also therefore, never been proven innocent.

This man is now 71 years old - in fact, he has lived and lied his entire life getting away without facing the responsibility of his actions - for which other people have had to bear the consequences. Now that he is old, presumably wealthy (and nearly dead) he has finally been publicly unmasked and exposed. I dare say that it will be cold comfort for the families and friends of the people affected by him, but I would be glad of any comfort and satisfaction on their part if he were to spend his last years alone in a four-by-two solitary cell.

I would like to point out - as does the following newspaper article from 2000 - an entire decade ago, the blatant inaction and apathy which has overshadowed this matter from the very beginning, and which has allowed this unpleasant and most distasteful situation to spread outside the borders of South Africa.

"Some of the charges against Dr. Levin are not new.

The War Resister, a publication of the Committee of South African War Resisters, first blew the whistle on him in January 1987, for his alleged use of forced aversion shock therapy against gay conscripts. Untouched by Charges of Abuse Ten years later, in June 1997, South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission named Levin for possible "gross human rights abuses" for the same reason (no mention was then made of the 'sex-change' program). However, the Commission apparently made no effort to serve him a subpoena. By then, Levin was already in Canada. Levin could still be prosecuted in South Africa for his alleged human rights abuses because he never applied the Commission for amnesty, nor was granted it.

Dr. Levin is not the only apartheid-era military psychiatrist linked to human rights abuses who continues to practice."

I find the last sentence particularly significant: "Dr. Levin is not the only apartheid-era military psychiatrist linked to human rights abuses who continues to practice."

Not the only one. And yet, have ANY of these practitioners ever been charged or convicted for their crimes?

Why not?

Reading the plethora of online articles on this case, the reams of claims, accusations and potential charges of abuse of human rights and assorted crimes against humanity which can and should be leveled at Levin - and resolved in a legal arena - as well as the stated support for this case as far back as 1987 - by so many organizations at various times, ranging from the SA Council of Churches to other social groups in a "coalition, which represents more than 74 lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual organizations in South Africa" - I wonder why this man was allowed to go unchallenged and unpunished for so long?

By his own actions, this man helped to prolong the oppression of the Pink Community in South Africa, when the SA government began to legislate the decriminalization of homosexuality as far back as 1969 (!!!) - and he, Dr Aubrey Levin - then a TRAINEE psychiatrist - assured Parliament that this was "not necessary" because HE could "cure" gay people with shock therapy!

I am loathe to say that even modern quacks who make the same dubious claims, cannot show one shred of actual evidence to back themselves up, not even with less traumatic techniques as those employed at the time - and that this entire "ex-gay" concept has been convincingly shot down and buried forever by medical authorities worldwide.

Imagine - were it not for Levin and his pie-in-the-sky claims, homosexuality in South Africa might likely have been decriminalized as far back as 1969! This in itself shows me that Levin's intentions towards the pink community have never been anything but malicious and hostile.

Levin's methodology of "aversion therapy" became outdated and obsolete when homosexuality ceased being viewed as a "mental illness" in 1973. In fact, it is nothing less than a recognized form of torture. Yet his work in the SA Military was allowed to continue right through the 1970's and 80's - why were these blatant violations of both the Geneva Convention and the Tokyo Agreement allowed and even allowed to be covered up after the fact?

Why did the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission let him off the hook so easily? Why were these charges not made? Why was he allowed to leave the country and why was he not extradited to face trial?

Numerous Apartheid medical figures responsible for torture and medical "experiments" performed on political prisoners during the Apartheid period - solely on the grounds of race, remain imprisoned to this very day - yet this man never even faced charges for strikingly similar crimes based solely on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity! This gives an alarmingly skewed perception of the value of the human rights of the pink community alongside those of other specific social groups in South Africa.

The TRC never charged Levin and the charges suggested never so much as included specific charges of abuse against the pink community.

This shocking failure on South Africa's part should not be forgotten.

This decades-long fiasco highlights the fact that once again, South Africa has failed its GLBTIQ citizens and their families - and now another country has to fix it for us. Damn, I feel so proud to be a South African!

I would like to close by expressing my disapointment and shame at the obvious fact that people in another country have been harmed because of the failings of a process which should have been resolved in South Africa at least ten years ago - but I am hopeful that Canadian justice will run its course and set things right, in the name of justice and human rights - and that "Dr. Shock" will not be allowed to hurt anyone again.

(Posted at Sour Grapes)

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