LGBT people in Ecuador are being raped and beaten in clinics that practice so-called conversion therapy, abuse that has been going on for years, according to a new report by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The brutality particularly targets lesbians, who are subjected to “corrective rape” in the clinics, in addition to being beaten, chained to beds, force-fed medicine, and kept in solitary confinement, reports the foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Thomson Reuters news service and focuses on human rights issues.
Reports of torture in “ex-gay” clinics surfaced several years ago, and since 2012 the government has investigated six allegations of abuse at the facilities, but “no one has been found guilty or punished,” Cayetana Salao of LGBT rights group Taller de Comunicacion Mujer told the foundation. Much of the anti-LGBT persecution happens in “private and clandestine alcohol and drug addiction clinics,” Salao said.
Government officials contended that there are no “ex-gay” clinics in Ecuador, where such “therapy” is against the law. But activists said it takes place anyway, in a nation that is deeply sexist and homophobic, and where the population is predominantly Catholic or evangelical Protestant. Salao's group has taken testimony from several survivors of the abuse.
Carina Vance, a lesbian who was Ecuador’s health minister from 2012 to 2015, said her ministry raided and closed more than 100 clinics during her tenure, but she believes many received advance notice of raids and reopened under other names.
“This business is very lucrative,” Vance, now head of the South American Institute of Government in Health, a think tank, told the foundation. “These clinics have a lot of power; there are a lot of economic interests behind this.”
“There are families using these so-called services and this has to do with a prevalent, a very homophobic ... a sexist society,” she added. “Cultural change is very difficult to produce.”