feature image via AllOut.org
Virulent homophobia, like Justin Bieber or Coca-Cola, is a global phenomenon. And even though Michele Bachmann's husband may or may not run one, that doesn't mean that clinics promising to "cure" people of homosexual tendencies is confined to America.
According to a campaign on the social progress site Change.org, there are over 200 clinics "ex-gay clinics" in operation in Ecuador. Except instead of ex-gay clinics, Karen Barba of Fundacion Causa (a women's rights organization based in Ecuador) calls them "lesbian torture clinics." In the call for signatures on the Change.org petition, Fundacion Causa writes:
These clinics which claim to “cure” homosexuality have decreased in popularity in recent years yet still remain a horrific reality for many. Escaping patients report cases of physical and psychological abuse including verbal threats, shackling, days without food, sexual abuse, and physical torture. Paula Ziritti, 24, spent two years in one such facility and for three months was shackled in handcuffs while guards threw water and urine on her. She describes numerous accounts of physical and sexual abuse. Ziritti says,“The closure of the first clinics by the government is good, but not good enough. Why is the clinic where I suffered still open?”
Like a conventionally understood "ex-gay clinic" in America, some "clients" of these clinics are unwilling patients sent there by horrified parents who hope their child is still capable of a heterosexual life. Unlike what we usually think of when we talk about American clinics, the parents can't always get their children back, even if they want to. Once Ziritti's parents realized what their daughter was undergoing, they tried to retrieve her, but the clinic refused. It took a year for them to successfully remove her. Afterwards, Ziritti underwent six months of actual psychological treatment to try to recover from what was done to her.
A campaign to close these "treatment centers" succeeded to a degree over the summer; in August, 27 clinics were shut down. There are over 200 still open. The only reason the world is even hearing Ziritti's story is that she's one of the only ones who's managed to escape. The ex-gay clinics are often billed as drug rehabilitation centers, and while the public is reported to be generally aware of their real function, many don't know that they practice abuse and torture on unwilling patients.
The Change.org petition calls on people all over the world to give their signatures and send a message to Dr. David Chirboga Allnut, Ecuador's minister of health, and close the rest of the "torture clinics" in Ecuador. As of this writing, the petition has 94,690 signatures towards a goal of 100,000. Can you add your name to the list of people who want change?