Anni Barragán and her colleagues at Fundación CAUSANA first learned of Ecuador’s lesbian “torture” clinics in 2004. They caught word of the internment of two women, against their will, in facilities normally meant for drug addicts and alcoholics. While imprisoned, the women had suffered physical assault and sexual abuse to “cure” them of their lesbian sexual orientation. It wasn’t long before similar reports began trickling in from cities around the country.
Thousands of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in Ecuador are stigmatized, excluded, marginalized, and tortured for their sexual orientation and gender identity. Motivated by her own experiences as a lesbian woman, Anni, President of Fundación de Desarrollo Humano Integral CAUSANA [Foundation for Holistic Human Development CAUSANA], strives to eradicate injustices and build a strong national LBT movement in Ecuador.
The torture of lesbians in Ecuador entered the international spotlight last year when Fundación CAUSANA launched petitions on Change.org, CREDO, and All Out demanding that the “rehabilitation” clinics be shut down. Though Ecuador has laws that ensure equality and non-discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it remains a threatening place for LGBT people.
Hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of Fundación CAUSANA’s petition caught the attention of Ecuadorian health authorities. Following a government-requested meeting with civil society groups, President Rafael Correa promised to close the clinics and nominated Carina Vance Mafla, an openly lesbian woman, as Ecuador's new Minister of Public Health.
In It For the Long Haul
These signatures didn't come easy. Fundación CAUSANA collaborated with women’s organizations for eight years, pressuring authorities to provide monitoring and assistance to the survivors of violence.
“We chose different paths to try and stop these practices of torture,” Anni recalls.
Fundación CAUSANA and its partners presented reports of the torture clinics to international forums such as the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Comité de América Latina y El Caribe para la Defensa de los Derechos de la Mujer [Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights] (CLADEM).
Building the Dream
Since the group's successful petition last year, Fundación CAUSANA has been driving the process to the next level. Although the government shut down 27 clinics in 2011, about 180 remain open with mostly women prisoners. Anni says that eliminating these practices requires “committed and ongoing” work – work to which she and Fundación CAUSANA are dedicated. Currently, the group is building Ecuador’s National Plan for the Eradication of Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and has plans to lead its implementation and enforcement.
For Anni, being a part of Fundación CAUSANA ultimately means, “building the dream of a different world where fairness, justice, and peace are a part of the everyday life of everyone.”