LGBT people in Ecuador are reportedly being forced to undergo violent “conversion therapy” in unlicensed rehabilitation clinics, even though homosexuality is legal in the South American country.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the Reuters news service that focuses on human rights, the psychological and physical abuse has been occurring for more than a decade.
“Corrective therapy, in mostly private and clandestine alcohol and drug addiction clinics, continues in Ecuador,” says Cayetana Salao of Taller de Comunicacion Mujer, an LGBT rights group. “It’s a reality.”
Admitted by parents or other relatives and held against their will, LGBT people, particularly lesbians, are reportedly being beaten, chained to beds, force-fed medicine, and held in solitary confinement. Victims have also reported “corrective rape” by fellow patients and staff who believe homosexuality is a curable mental illness.
Salao, who notes that evangelical groups are gaining influence in the predominantly Catholic nation, estimates about 200 of these unlicensed clinics are operating across Ecuador. Hate crimes and other human rights violations against LGBT people have been reported in more than 100 such clinics since 2012, but there have been no punishments or prosecutions.
Ecuador’s public health ministry maintains that no evidence of “conversion therapy” was found in more than 60 clinics it has shuttered since 2016 for unsanitary conditions or for operating without a license. “There are no de-homosexualization clinics,” says representative Maria Jose Espin. “They shouldn’t exist.”
Carina Vance, a former health minister who is openly gay, says police raids resulted in the closure of more than 100 clinics during her tenure from 2012 to 2015. “This business is very lucrative,” she says. “These clinics have a lot of power, there are a lot of economic interests behind this.”
Ecuador, which allows same-sex civil unions, decriminalized homosexuality in 1997.