buysThis disturbing story started to make the rounds yesterday. A fifteen year-old boy died in South Africa at a camp called Echo Wild Game Rangers, south of Johannesburg, that promises to “make men out of boys”:

The Vereeniging District Court has heard about the alleged torture and murder of a 15-year-old boy at a controversial game-ranger training camp in 2011, it was reported on Wednesday.

Raymond Buys died a month after being admitted to a Vereeniging hospital, emaciated and with, among others, skull fractures, following a 10-week stay at the camp, during which he was banned from contacting his family, according to a report in Beeld.

Camp owner Alex de Koker, 49, and his employee, Michael Erasmus, 20, have been charged with murder, child abuse, neglect and two cases of assault with intent to cause serious physical injury.

On Tuesday, Gerhard Oosthuizen, 19, reportedly testified that Buys, with whom he shared a tent during the training course, was chained to his bed every night, was refused permission to visit the toilet and forced to eat his own faeces.

According to the article, just before Buys was admitted to the hospital, Oosthuizen witnessed the camp leaders tying Buys to a chair and electrocuting him.

Buys is not the first child to die under de Koker’s watch:

“I sent my son on this course to make him a better man, to give him a better future,” his mother Wilma Buys said to The Telegraph. She said she sent her son to the camp to receive training to be a ranger. “I trusted Alex de Koker with his life.”

The teen died two weeks after his mother was told his chances for survival was “virtually zero” upon admittance to a hospital. Buys seems to be the third person to have died under de Koker’s watch. According to the report, Erich Calitz died from severe brain injuries in 2007, and Nicholas van der Walt died at a similar camp run by the same administrators. Calitz was reportedly beaten when he asked to quit the camp.

“Alex [de Koker] told him that he wasn’t gay, and he would make a man out of him,” according to Calitz’s sister, Mathilda Groenwald.

Melanie Nathan points out that, though they don’t advertise themselves specifically as an “ex-gay” camp, certain undertones start to emerge when you take witnesses’ accounts together:

What is so shocking is that the murder of Buys is not the first, as Echo Wild Game Rangers has seen the deaths of 2 young teens, also perceived as gay and clearly effeminate, when in  2007, 18-year-old Eric Calitz and Nicolaas van der Walt, 19 both died in similar circumstances.  de Koker was handed a suspended sentence in 2009 over Calitz’s death but escaped charges for van der Walt’s death, which was ruled to have been caused by a heart attack. It was reported that de Koker told Calitz  that he wasn’t a “moffie” (like saying “fag”) and he “would make a man out of him.”

The idea of the camp is to apparently make men of teens and to “cure”  ‘”feminine traits’ in male youths…” another way of saying gay reparative therapy, instead in this instance that therapy involved “beating the gay out of the kid” – torture and if torture didn’t effect the desired change, then certainly murder would; after all a dead teen is not a gay teen.

I chatted with Melanie Nathan last night and she agreed with my assessment that, though this isn’t specifically marketing itself as an “ex-gay” facility, the story seems to be in the fact that the reparative therapy elements of this camp seem to fly under the radar, while hidden in plain sight. She explained that the “moffie cure” idea is something that is well understood within right wing South African culture, and that it wouldn’t need to be specifically spelled out like it would be, say, in the States. She explained that parents seem to send their kids to this place for a variety of reasons, but that whether it’s ADD or other behavioral problems, or an effeminate boy, it’s understood in the rigid, Dutch-Reform Calvinistic culture, that this “turn the boy into a man” thing is a viable solution for a “problem child.”

While no specific ties appear to exist at this point between American “reparative therapy” programs and this gruesome camp, the notable parallel is that groups like NARTH and Journey Into Manhood, as well as “therapists” like George Rekers have long been focused both on “preventing” homosexuality by teaching boys to be as masculine as possible, and on “curing” homosexuality in teens and adults by teaching them how to Be Men. Of course, it doesn’t work, as sexuality has nothing to do with either effeminacy or masculinity, but that’s the idea.

The other lesson here, I think, is that we see what happens when people who hold those sorts of discredited beliefs about sexuality and masculinity are allowed free rein to take those beliefs to their natural conclusions. I have long contended that American anti-gay activists are restrained by our culture in how far they’ll go to foist their worldview on the masses, and they know it. This is why they’re always screaming about their “religious freedom” every time they’re simply forced to abide the same rules as everyone else. This is also why we, indeed, need stronger legal protections as far as the damage parents are able to inflict on their children in the name of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Bans on reparative therapy for minors are a good first step.