When I heard that a Serbian doctor, Mirojlub Petrovic, was opening a clinic in Belgrade to "cure" homosexuality, my ears perked up. I've long been fascinated by scientific research into the causes of sexual orientation, as well as the attempts by some to change their sexuality (I even attended an "ex-gay" conference in North Carolina not long ago on a reporting assignment).
But in the United States, such movements tend to be explicitly religious in nature (the event I attended was organized by an evangelical Christian organization that specifically recommended prayer as a solution). Though there is a marginalized (and medically discredited) "reparative therapy" movement that attempts to put a more scientific gloss on its methods, individuals who claim that they can change someone else's sexual orientation tend not to offer the solution in the form of a magic potion.
Petrovic, a practitioner of something called "original medicine," is different. I interviewed him earlier this month in Belgrade, where I happened to be covering
the city's first-ever successful gay-rights march (which occurred alongside a riot
against security forces resulting in $1.4 million worth of damage).
Miroljub Petrovic on Montenegrin TV
"The problem of homosexualism," Petrovic informed me, has been an issue in Serbia since at least last year, when a planned gay-rights march was canceled at the last minute over police concerns that far-right groups would use violence to disrupt the event. His cause was given new force earlier this year when the Serbian government announced its support for the parade, and declared that it would deploy 5,000 police officers to ensure it transpired peacefully (which, aside from the massive rioting in other parts of the city, it did).
The medical establishment has it all wrong, Petrovic explains to me. Original medicine "solves the problem of the cause of illness, not to treat its symptoms." This involves the acceptance of "good habits" and the rejection of "bad habits." A slogan of the movement is that there are "no incurable diseases, only incurable people." When I asked, incredulously, if Petrovic could cure cancer, he replied, "Of course" (perhaps I should alert my friend Christopher Hitchens
, suffering from esophageal cancer, to get on the next plane to Belgrade).
Petrovic is not a doctor, however, as has been reported in Serbian and some foreign media. He has a bachelor's of science certificate from an American outfit calling itself the International Institute of Original Medicine
, which offers students the chance to become a "Certified Medical Missionary in Original Medicine
How does Petrovic and his team ("me and my friends," as he describes them) claim to cure homosexuality? Quite simply: Patients must cut out junk food from their diet, "drink a lot of water," "reject anything that is diarrhetic, alcohol, caffeine," engage in "physical activity," "rest [at] appropriate times." Plus, one "must think about good things." Oh, and receive regular enemas.
When I asked if Petrovic had any success stories, he replied in the affirmative, and that he has received a flood of new patients "especially in the last two weeks" because of the publicity surrounding the march. In Petrovic's eyes, he isn't just curing gays of an affliction; he's saving them from a possible death sentence. Though he acknowledges that "you cannot execute homosexuals" at this point, he supports a system that would ultimately give gays a choice: change your behavior or face the death penalty.
It didn't take long for me to uncover something about Petrovic that has yet to be reported: he is an acknowledged theocrat who desires a political system in which a king would dispense divinely inspired justice. "In democracy we can vote and we can legalize any kind of destructive way of living. So now we have junk food, tobacco and alcohol -- poisons -- legalized, and we are going to legalize marijuana, homosexualism, and there is no end." He is the author of a book, "Basics of Theocracy," that sets out this antidemocratic vision.
Anyway, if you want a chuckle -- never mind a depressing view into what passes for popular opinion about homosexuality in much of the world, from Belgrade to Tehran -- give the interview a listen: