here are more than 200 clinics in Ecuador where gay and lesbian men and women are sent to be “cured” of their homosexuality.
These treatment centers operate as drug rehabilitation facilities where patients undergo therapy, but according to Huffington Post blogger Emilia Gutierrez, it’s common for families to send their children there to purge them of homosexuality. Patients say physical and mental abuse are the tools of the trade.
Fundacion Causana, a leading women’s rights organization in Ecuador, put out a call to action on the online advocacy platform Change.org denouncing these “lesbian torture clinics” and the public who turns a blind eye to their decade-long existence. Within a month, the petition received signatures from more than 100,000 people in 80 countries.
As victims began to speak out and press charges, the international media took notice. Gutierrez reported the story of Paola Ziritti, a 24-year-old woman whose parents sent her to the clinic (for reasons not disclosed in the article). Once Ziritti told them of the abuses she suffered while imprisoned—including being handcuffed to her bed while attendants threw water and urine on her—they tried to have her released. That process took two years. Ziritti was the first to speak out and file a formal complaint against the treatment centers. Since she went public with her story, others have done the same.
Now, the Ecuadorian government is working in tandem with Fundacion Causana to eradicate these clinics, free the victims trapped there and launch a national public awareness campaign to fight homophobia.
“After ten years of outcry, the nation of Ecuador—through the Ministry of Public Health—has entered into a commitment with civic organizations, and society in general, to deconstruct the belief that homosexuality is an illness and root out the use of torture in these clinics. We extend our thanks to all the men and women who signed our petition—it’s been an invaluable support in starting to change this reality,” the group said in a statement released to the press.
The former health minister resigned in early January and was replaced by American-born Carina Vance Mafla, a lesbian activist who had spearheaded the protest against the torture clinics since 2008. The Ministry of Health has closed 30 clinics so far, according to Fundacion Causana.