Ecuador will investigate and act forcefully against any clinics found to be trying to force homosexuals to change their sexual orientation, a Health Ministry official said on Thursday.
Gay rights activists in the South American country say four clinics that engaged in coercive practices, three in the capital, have been shut down in recent months, but that others still continue to operate clandestinely.
“Sadly, authorities have not yet taken the corrective measures necessary to regulate the work of clinics that offer ‘de-homosexualization’ treatment,” said Efrain Soria, director of Fundacion Equidad, an anti--discrimination group.
Health Ministry official David Troya said the agency would deal firmly and drastically with any clinics that offer such treatments, which have been denounced by critics as abusive.
Newly-named Ecuadoran Health Minister Carina Vance, who studied at the University of California and has publicly defended gay rights, is hiring someone to work exclusively on the issue, said Troya, an adviser to Vance.
“We are going to take the necessary measures in a firm and drastic manner as regards this subject,” he said.
The ministry is “clear and emphatic” that in line with the WHO findings, “homosexuality is not an illness and that as such a cure can’t be suggested, so that whoever offers treatments is deceiving people and acting illegally,” Troya said.
Paola Concha said that her family sent her in 2006 to a clinic to “cure” her of homosexuality.
“I received physical and verbal aggression during the 18 months I was interned in one of these centers,” she said. “Nearly daily they beat me, and many times I was handcuffed to a pipe.”
Concha said the women’s ward of the clinic where she was held was later closed. She said other women who were “treated” along with her are afraid to go public with their stories.
Troya said the few clinics offering “de-homosexualizion treatment” that were shuttered by authorities were closed not because they offered such services, but for other reasons, such as failing to meet sanitary standards.
Soria, the anti-discrimination activist, said complaints had been filed in courts against all of the closed clinics.
He said the clinics running “de-homosexualization” programs camouflage themselves by advertising that they treat such disorders as substance abuse.