Lesbian named Ecuador health minister, will close 'ex-Gay' clinics
 

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posted Friday, January 27, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 04

Lesbian named Ecuador health minister, will close 'ex-Gay' clinics
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Lesbian Carina Vance Mafla has taken over Ecuador's Public Health Ministry and will close down some 200 'ex-Gay' clinics operating in the South American country.

Vance was introduced as the new health minister by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa at a January 18 news conference. She replaces David Chiriboga Allnut, who resigned at the beginning of January after failing to reform the health system.

Ecuador's largest LGBT organization Equal Rights Now (Igualdad de Derechos Ya!) said they hoped Vance would 'pay attention to the distribution of HIV medications, create guidelines to prevent discrimination against LGBT individuals at hospitals and health centers, and take action on shutting down illegal religious 'clinics' that promote 'cures' for homosexuality.'

Vance, formerly the director of Fundacion Causana, an activist group opposed to the 'ex-Gay' clinics, promised that she would do just that. The Ecuadorian government closed about 30 of the clinics last September, but there may be as many as 200 still operating in the country.

The story of Ecuador's 'ex-Gay' clinics was first broken by Blabbeando blogger Andres Duque in 2008.

Change.org, which initiated a worldwide petition campaign to close the clinics, labeled them 'Lesbian torture clinics' because of the brutality of their methods.

According to the Box Turtle Bulletin, clinic patient Paula Ziritt said she was held for two years at one such facility in Guayaquil - the largest city in Ecuador - including three months in handcuffs while guards threw urine and iced water on her.

Fundacion Causana issued a statement saluting the success of their campaign against the clinics.

'After 10 years of outcry,' they said, 'the nation of Ecuador - through the Ministry of Public Health - has entered into a commitment with civic organizations and society in general to deconstruct the belief that homosexuality is an illness and root out the use of torture in these clinics.'

Correa was elected president of Ecuador in 2006 and was reelected in 2009. He is aligned politically with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Correa publicly dedicated his government to fighting homophobia after the murder of a Gay Ecuadorian immigrant in New York in 2008.

'We will fight together ... to forever uproot these aberrations of certain maladjusted [individuals], uproot them from the face of the earth, from humanity: Xenophobia, homophobia, and all kinds of discrimination, all kinds of violence,' he said at the time.

Correa's government survived a 2010 coup attempt during which he personally confronted rebel police officers and dared them to kill him.

Vance was born in Oakland, California, and lived in Europe during her teens.

In the April 2010 issue of the Ecuadorean magazine Cosas, she describes coming to terms with her sexuality after a harrowing experience when she was just 13 years old.

She was holding hands with her first girlfriend on a bus, Vance said, when she noticed that a group of men in their 20s had noticed them.

Vance says that one of the men spat at them while a second man sat behind them and shouted insults. When she turned around to confront the guy shouting homophobic epithets, he punched her in the face.

She thought she would be safe the moment she got off the bus but she was wrong.

'They followed me home, kicking me and shouting at me,' she said. 'For me, it was a matter of pride that kept me from running, so I just walked on forward even as they continued to kick me. [The experience] not only helped me to become fully aware of my sexuality but also made me aware of the societal reaction to it.'

Vance then moved to Quito with her family where she attended high school but said that she felt it was impossible for her at that particular time to live openly.

She decided to move back to the United States after graduation where she spent 12 years finishing college and graduate degrees.

'When I returned [to Ecuador] in 2004, it shocked me to see the Gay flag prominently displayed at a university,' she said.

Vance realized just how much Ecuador had changed for the better, she said, and now lives in Quito happily and openly without fear of being attacked.



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