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Ecuador clinics said to 'cure' homosexuality stir debate

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The issue made headlines around the world recently, following a petition posted through the change.org international platform asking Ecuador's Health ministry to shut down such centers.

The petition was drawn up after Paola Concha went public with her story. She was 24 when she was taken by force to a center in the southern outskirts of Quito.

“Three men seized me, handcuffed me, put me in a van, and took me away by force,” says Ms. Concha.

 “I was going through a crisis. I was living away from my family, discovering my real identity,” she says. “My mother was deeply worried and she wanted to help me ... But these people took advantage of her anguish.”

Concha was in the center for approximately 18 months. During that time she was handcuffed and held in confinement without food for several days at a time, she was forced to dress up as a man, and she was raped, she says.

Her mother paid $500 a month to keep her in the center. According to information provided by gay rights associations, costs vary between $200 and $1,200 per month. Most centers ask for a minimum stay of six months. Extra costs are associated with “the capture,” the moment when future patients are picked up – against their will – to be taken to a center.

“There is a lot of ignorance,” says Tatiana Cordero, director of Taller de Comunicación Mujer, a feminist organization that has been investigating the claims of human rights violations in the clinics. “Families are ripped off by these centers that claim to offer corrective therapy, which obviously does not exist and it is only a violation of human rights.”

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