Sexologists battle over who is the real deal

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Hieronymus Bosch’s painting “Cutting the Stone” from the 1490s is a timeless reminder of the folly of quackery. Image from Wikipedia.

Two sexology institutes in Gauteng are in conflict with one another over who is offering a legitimate services versus who is operating illegally. And experts in the field say they are both in the wrong.

Sexology is the “study of human sexuality, including human sexual interests, behaviors and function”.

The Academy for Sexology in Pretoria has been running for more than ten years offering courses on sexology. However it is not registered with any council or the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Marina Simpoulos-Basson and Lieb J. Van Rooyen laid charges against the institute in 2013. They have set up a competitive institute, Aidez Nous Collège de Sexologiae, which describes itself as a “unique practice focusing primarily on sexual health and well being.” However Simpoulos-Basson and Van Rooyen received their qualifications from the Academy of Sexology.

Last year New Age newspaper published an article in which the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) warned students against bogus colleges in Gauteng. The newspaper listed the Academy for Sexology as one such college.

Simpoulos-Basson confirmed that she and Van Rooyen opened a criminal charge against the Academy for Sexology but said they are not trading, only giving talks about sexology, which she says they are allowed to. “I will sue the person who said we are trading. Yes we opened a criminal case against Lemmer and the matter is in court. We realised that he was a fraud,” she said.

She asked GroundUp to send questions via email, however she has not responded to them. Van Rooyen told GroundUp the matter is before the court pending finalization of the case by the DHET. He said a detailed press release will be made available upon finalization of the case.

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) is a statutory body. It is responsible for advising DHET and ensuring the quality of higher education qualifications. Dr Shaheeda Essack, Deputy Director of Private Higher Education in CHE, confirmed that the Academy for Sexology is not registered. She also confirmed that only DHET can approve a business to provide higher education.

This raises the question of the validity of the qualifications already awarded by the Academy for Sexology, even if it does become registered. Essack told GroundUp that degrees cannot be awarded retrospectively. This implies that past graduates of the institute might not be able to validate their qualifications.

The Southern African Sexual Health Association (SASHA) is a non-profit organisation established in 1999 with the “sole purpose of providing an Association that provides the beginnings of a statutory body for the protection of the public and health-care professionals that provide sexology and related forms of treatment and therapy.”

Dr Elmari Mulder Craig, President and Director of SASHA, said that her organisation is aware of the allegations. “We are very concerned about these so called training institutions. Lieb Van Rooyen has a Masters in Sociology and Marina Simopoulos-Basson a BA in Psychology and Criminology from UNISA as far as we know,” said Craig.

She said, “This implies that Simpoulos-Basson does not have an honours degree. Neither of these institutions [the Academy of Sexology and Aidez Nous Collège de Sexologiae] are registered with any professional council.”

Craig alleged that Simpoulos-Basson and Van Rooyen are breaking the law by presenting themselves as therapists or doing any therapeutic work with patients.

“Both of them ‘studied’ with Johan Lemmer from The Academy of Sexology, [which is] not a registered institution. They then realised that he and his academy are not what they expected and started their own thing. Currently, the Academy is trading illegally as it is not registered with the DHET nor any other statutory body as required by the Higher Education Act [and] the Regulations for the Registration of Private Higher Education Institutions,” she added.

She told Groundup that Aidez Nous Collège de Sexologiae has been in consultation with the Health Professions Council of South Africa to register sexology as a field under Medical Services but according to their knowledge it was not awarded. “The Academy of Sexology is not recognised by SASHA or the medical fraternity in South Africa as a credible institution. Johan Lemmer does not have any credibility in the field and his sexology training is being questioned,” said Craig.

“The DHET has made it clear that these degrees and subsequent designations will not be recognised.” Craig said this means that the Academy for Sexology is therefore awarding qualifications fraudulently and this could lead to prosecutions.

Responding to the allegations Lemmer, said the Academy for Sexology has never pretended to be registered as a South African university or that it is registered with the Department of Higher Education. He said however that he is doing his best to register. “Personally, I regard the allegations in a very serious light. It is malicious, untrue, unconstitutional and it does a lot of harm to sexual and relationship health and well-being in South Africa,” said Lemmer.

Lemmer said that he’s aware of the charges against him but cannot talk about the matter while it is before the court. He said that the accusation that he is “trading illegally” needs to be defined to enable him to respond to the allegation. “Academy for Sexology has achieved a lot to enhance sexual health and well-being nationally and internationally to all people during the past 13 years. It has a track record for more than ten years of best practices and being fully transparent. Our students are at all times fully informed – both officially and unofficially,” said Lemmer.

He said, “Students have the constitutional right to make their own decisions regarding their education and their career development and where to study whatever they want. This includes the scientific study of sexuality in which educational opportunities are rare.” He said that his institute’s fees are as “low as 15% of market related studies.”

He said, “The Academy for Sexology never awarded or pretends to award any degrees.” He said that the Academy for Sexology continuously informs students of the current status of the process of getting accredited. “We have tried our level best since 2003 to get sexology accredited with South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) as well as with the DHET and have got proof in this regard.”

GroundUp asked a doctor why it is is important to have a registration system for sexology training institutes. The doctor said he was of the view that the HPCSA, which is responsible for overseeing the medical professions, would be the most appropriate body for sexologists to be registered with, and training should be SAQA accredited in an institution accredited by the DHET. He said, “If anyone can offer a course in sexology without proper oversight of the quality of training, patients can be put at risk if graduates of the course have not been taught properly. What if for example, a pituitary tumour or diabetes is causing the sexual issues? A sexologist cannot deal with that, but could do harm by trying to counsel the person and causing a delay in appropriate treatment.”

Correction: The article originally spelled Ms Simpoulos-Basson’s name incorrectly. We apologise for the error.

TOPICS:  Corruption Government Health

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