According to Ecuador's Health Minister, Carina Vance, the country currently has over 80 unlicensed clinics, which offer to treat a range of ailments from alcoholism and substance addiction to homosexuality. These clinics have undergone enhanced scrutiny as of late, thanks to reports of torture, rape, and inhumane treatment that are beginning to surface. Last year, two people died at these clinics under mysterious circumstances. Now, thanks to survivors like Denisse Freire, we have witnesses to the sort of horrifying atrocities being committed within these mysterious treatment centers.
According to France 24, Freire was sent to a center at age 15, after her mother discovered her in her room with another female classmate.
"They tortured me with electric shocks, didn't let me bathe for three days, gave me almost nothing to eat, hit me a lot, hung me by my feet. They told me it was for my own good."
Freire was also forcibly raped in an effort to rid her of her same-sex attraction. She was able to escape after two months. Unfortunately, he story is just one example of many. "We have reports of physical attacks, the use of ice water on inmates," Health Minister Vance told the press. "We have lesbians who have reported what the clinics called 'sex therapy,' but which consists of being raped by men…We are talking here about a mafia, a network that operates nationally in each of the provinces, which are violating human rights."
Vance, who is also openly gay, informed reporters that, since March of last year, 18 of these clinics have been closed for health and/or human rights violations. Unfortunately, the so-called "mafia" that supports these clinics often includes many elected officials, including at least one former health ministry official. Ecuadorian law also permits forced treatment of an "addict" if the treatment is ordered by a judge. Leah Burbano of the Lesbian Women and Woman Movement also notes that many gay people are also placed into these clinics by close family members, which "creates an emotional weight." She notes, though, that families are very often unaware of the inhumane atrocities committed by these clinics when sending their relatives to these camps. "This is not a struggle between parents and children. It's a struggle against these clinics."
Earlier this year, the advocacy websites AllOut.org and Change.org were able to gather over 178,000 signatures on an online petition to shut down these clinics. AllOut co-founder Andre Bank thanked the "courageous LGBT and women's rights activists in Ecuador, and supporters around the world who helped elevate this national scandal to global prominence."