10 Outrageous Experiments Conducted on Humans

The Aversion Project in South Africa
This same sex couple married in the chapel of the former apartheid prison of Robben Island in 2010, but it wasn’t so long ago that homosexuality was illegal in South Africa. © GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images

If you were living during the apartheid era in South Africa, you lived under state-regulated racial segregation. If that itself wasn't difficult enough, the state also controlled your sexuality.

The South African government upheld strict anti-homosexual laws. If you were gay you were considered a deviant — and your homosexuality was also considered a disease that could be treated. Even after homosexuality ceased to be considered a mental illness and aversion therapy as a way to cure it debunked, psychiatrists and Army medical professionals in the South African Defense Force (SADF) continued to believe the outdated theories and treatments. In particular, aversion therapy techniques were used on prisoners and on South Africans who were forced to join the military under the conscription laws of the time.

At Ward 22 at 1 Military hospital in Voortrekkerhoogte, Pretoria, between 1969 and 1987 attempts were made to "cure" perceived deviants. Homosexuals, gay men and lesbians were drugged and subjected to electroconvulsive behavior therapy while shown aversion stimuli (same-sex erotic photos), followed by erotic photos of the opposite sex after the electric shock. When the technique didn't work (and it absolutely didn't), victims were then treated with hormone therapy, which in some cases included chemical castration. In addition, an estimated 900 men and women also underwent gender reassignment surgery when subsequent efforts to "reorient" them failed — most without consent, and some left unfinished [source: Kaplan].