An academic in Kuwait has made some bizarre claims regarding homosexuality in a video interview on Kuwait City broadcaster Scope TV. Dr Mariam Al-Sohel, who is not a medical doctor, claimed that gay men have a worm in their anus that feeds on semen. Luckily, like all snake-oil sellers, she has found a cure for it. The cure apparently works for lesbians as well.
“The sexual urge develops when a person is sexually attacked. And afterward, it persists because there is an anal worm that feeds on semen. It feeds on sperm. So, what I did was to produce suppositories, which are to be used by certain people at a certain time. It cures those urges by exterminating the worm that feeds on the sperm,” Dr Al-Sohel states in the video.
It goes without saying that all of this is nonsense. It might be shocking for some, but being gay is more than just anal sex, and we sincerely doubt that this semen-eating anal worm would have much food in lesbian relationships.
The video was shared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) with the claim that the cure is based on Islamic “Prophetic Medicine”. Independent translations of the video requested by IFLScience instead have Dr Al-Sohel discussing her own personal beliefs rather than Islamic prophetic beliefs as the title states. MEMRI has previously been accused of selectively translating clips from Arabic TV stations in the Middle East. The twisting of science and the law to punish LGBTQ+ people is not exclusive to Kuwait, far from it. The rights for sexual and gender minorities are terrible around the world.
Only nine countries (Nepal, Fiji, South Africa, Malta, Bolivia, Ecuador, Mexico, Sweden, and Portugal) have protections against discrimination with regard to sexual orientation in their constitutions. Being gay is still criminalized in 73 countries. In the US, the supreme court will soon decide if it’s legal to fire people for being LGBTQ+. Violence against transgendered people is at an all-time high in the US and the media has been demonizing and mischaracterizing trans* issues in the United Kingdom.
But given that the “cure” proposed by Al-Sohel is akin to conversion therapy, let’s discuss that. Conversion therapy assumes that homosexuality is a mental disorder that can be “cured” using behavioral therapy, electric shocks, and/or lobotomies. These approaches can be harmful and ineffective, yet continue to be practiced extensively worldwide.
Only nine countries outright ban conversion therapy. Malta, Switzerland, and a few authorities in Spain are the only places in Europe where it is banned. The practice in the US is banned in 16 states, in DC, and Puerto Rico, and in a handful of counties and municipalities. Just this January, the Israel Medical Association has moved to expel doctors performing conversion therapy, although the practice is still legal as an attempt to outlaw it in 2016 was rejected by the Knesset.
The takeaway of this story is not just how silly these claims seem to be. It’s that almost everywhere in the world, LGBTQ+ people are consistently considered second-class citizens.