Carina Vance Mafla

Ecuador’s newly appointed openly lesbian Heath Minister, Carina Vance Mafla, is set to take action against the hundreds of clinics in Ecuador that use brutal methods to “cure” gays and lesbians.

The move comes after more than 113 000 people backed an international petition on calling on the country’s minister of health to investigate and close down the clinics that allegedly “torture” gay people in a bid to ‘cure’ them.

According to activist groups, the over 200 ‘ex-gay’ clinics “starve, abuse, and torture patients in an effort to make them straight”.

In November the media reported the story of Paola Ziritti, who at the age 24 was sent by her parents to one of the clinics in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

She claimed that she experienced “battering, sexual abuse, deprivation of all kinds, and constant [ridicule]” and that for three months she was shackled in handcuffs while guards threw water and urine on her.

The campaign against the clinics was announced by the previous Minister of Health Dr. David Chirriboga just before he resigned earlier this month, but Mafla – who has been part of civil society efforts to close the clinics – is expected to add further impetus to the government’s efforts.

“The Ecuadorian government rejects such practices as criminal and in direct conflict with the individual freedoms granted to all our citizens,” said Chirriboga.

The government has now committed to investigate and close the clinics, to initiate a national campaign against homophobia and create a hotline for victims of the clinics.

“After ten years of outcry, the nation of Ecuador – through the Ministry of Public Health – has entered into a commitment with civic organisations and society in general to deconstruct the belief that homosexuality is an illness and root out the use of torture in these clinics,” said lesbian rights group Fundación Causana.

“We extend our thanks to all the men and women who signed our petition. It has been invaluable to have this support in starting to change this reality,” added the group.

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