By Anna Jaffray
Last month, Ecuador promised to shut down anti-gay rehab clinics, which have used torture to “cure” homosexuality.
In response to campaigns by Allout.org and Change.org to stop the homosexuality clinics, the Ecuadorian government appointed a lesbian to lead the Health Ministry.
Paola Ziritti, 24, was the first to escape from such a clinic. Although her parents were aware they were sending her to an anti-gay clinic with forced confinement, they had no knowledge of the torture she would receive. Ziritti, quoted in the French magazine Tetu, stated she underwent various forms of torture including, “battering, sexual abuse, deprivation of all kinds, and constant [ridicule].” Furthermore, Ziritti was frequently handcuffed while water and urine were thrown on her.
After stories like Ziritti’s inspired widespread attention, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa appointed a lesbian, Carina Vance Mafla, as the new Health Minister last month. Mafla has since begun her campaign to recognize homosexuality as a biological fact, not a disease. Mafla was born in Oakland, CA but spent some time in Europe and went to high school in Ecuador. After earning her Masters in Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley, Mafla returned to Ecuador in 2004 when she became Executive Director of Fundacion Causana.
Petitions by AllOut and Change.org which received a combined count of 178,000 signatures, demanded an end to the so-called “anti-gay” clinical programs in Ecuador.
Allout.org’s campaign director, Joseph Huff-Hannon, said his organization joined the fight when multiple stories surfaced last September. Allout also worked closely with Fundacion Causana, and others, to increase publicity for the petitions.
Fundacion Causana, an Ecuadorian LGBT rights group, released a statement on the success of the campaign, “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 our the use of torture in these clinics.” Thus far, according to the Huffington Post, over 200 clinics remain open, while 30 have been shut down.
Huff-Hannon said the difficulty with shutting down these clinics is that many of them treat other disorders such as drug addiction and depression.
Although Ecuador has made serious headway in civil rights for LGBT citizens, same-sex marriage and adoption remain illegal, while a conservative and macho culture remains dominant.
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