For a decade, lesbian groups have been calling for government action on the physical and psychological torture inflicted on lesbians to try to “cure” them.
At age 24, Paola Ziritti says she suffered “forcible confinement” in a clinic which her parents were led to believe would “de-homosexualize” their daughter. There, for 18 months, she suffered battering, sexual abuse, deprivation of all kinds, constant insults and being chained. Guards threw urine and ice water on her. She spent nearly three months in chains before her mother realized what she had done and freed her, Ziritti told Têtu magazine.
It took more than six months of genuine psychological treatment for her to begin to recover.
Ziritti is the first lesbian to agree to file a complaint against these “treatments” performed in clinics that hide behind the drug addiction services they supposedly provide.
Tatiana Velasquez, of the lesbian organization Taller de Comunicación Mujer, says there are 207 clinics of this type in Ecuador. 27 have been closed by authorities following Ziritti’s testimony.
Nicolás Jara, Minister in charge of Public Health said:
“It would be very important that [victims] would denounce the cases in order to close down all [illegal clinics].”
Activists are demanding that the Ecuadorian government launch a serious investigation into illegal and degrading practices and the closure of all these centers.
Last month, two more lesbians managed to escape from two clinics and file complaints.
According to the network of local LGBT organizations, clinics have also locked up gay men, transgenders and cross-dressers but on a smaller scale, “probably because they manage to leave the family earlier than girls,” says Velasquez.
Velasquez says that the evidence they have collected shows a pattern: women were raped or threatened with rape, handcuffed, deprived of food and forced to dress like prostitutes.
Ziritti says that the closure of the first clinics by the government is good, but it is not enough. “Why is the one where I suffered still open?” she said, adding that she has been threatened since her testimony went on television in Ecuador.
Velasquez says that because of Ziritti’s courage in publicly speaking out, more abused victims are coming forward. Another former client was 19 years old when he was forcibly taken by his father to a different clinic, where he was beaten, deprived of food and had buckets of cold water thrown on him.
Ziritti says that a group of young gays and lesbians stopped her on the street to thank her; their parents were going to send them to the same clinics, but now understand the danger. They told Ziritti that she had saved them from hell, she says.
As an individual, you can send a Spanish language request to close the centers drafted by CLADEM; all the email addresses of the Presidency and the ministries of Justice and of Health are online.
As an organization, you can support the three associations that are leading the fight to close these centers:
They are also involved in drafting a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and protecting the women who will testify.
Translation help from French by F Young.
Picture Andrew Ciscel
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