A coalition of LGBT and women’s rights groups in Ecuador recently celebrated a huge victory. After years of advocacy and protest, Fundación Causana, Taller de Comunicación Mujer and Artikulación Esporádika lobbied the government of Ecuador to investigate and shut down clinics across the country that were using abuse and torture to “cure” lesbians. These clinics often disguised themselves as addiction treatment centers and offered cures for homosexuality in covert ways.
After working with women who had escaped these clinics, human rights activists gathered disturbing stories of physical and psychological abuse. Women described being detained without consent, starved, shackled, beaten, and sexually abused in efforts to make them “straight”.
After a decade of advocacy, women’s and LGBT rights groups in Ecuador have recently been successful in partnering with the Health Ministry to close these torture clinics. Two recent developments made this victory against human rights violations possible.
First, Fundación Causana, Taller de Comunicación Mujer and Artikulación Esporádika circulated an online petition to draw attention to their campaign. That petition gathered over 100,000 signatures from around the world calling on the Health Ministry to protect the rights of LGBT people.
Second, a leadership change within the Health Ministry also proved advantageous to the cause. In early January, Carina Vance, former Executive Director of the gay rights organization Fundación Causana was appointed as Health Minister. Vance is directing a campaign of raids which are shutting down dubious clinics and freeing women.
The work of these activists, who have succeeded in calling attention to these crimes, is vital. Yet a great deal of work still remains. It is believed that hundreds of “ex-gay clinics” are still operational in Ecuador.