Global Voices

A Photographer Shines Light on the Abuse Women Suffer at Illegal ‘Conversion Therapy’ Clinics in Ecuador

"My first thought was that it could be me held there and told that, as a gay woman, I needed to change."

Screenshot from the video “Until You Change”, made by Paola Paredes and shared on Vimeo.

Ecuadorian artist Paola Paredes has created a photo series, titled “Until You Change“, to protest against the existence of underground centers intended to “cure” homosexuality in Ecuador.

Most of these illegal centers are disguised as religious “clinics” to rehabilitate those with drug or alcohol addictions. According to the photographer, homosexual and transgender men and women sent by their families are locked up and subjected to brutal abuse and humiliation. On her website, the artist writes:

It was four years ago that I first learned about the private ‘clinics’ that claim to cure homosexuality in Ecuador. My first thought was that it could be me held there and told that, as a gay woman, I needed to change. Two years later, I came out to my family and was accepted by them. In my country, many young women and men are not so fortunate.

After investigating and interviewing different women who were kept in the “clinics”, Paredes reconstructed their stories using photography. Due to the difficulty of demonstrating these underground clinics’ practices, Paredes chose to play the protagonist in each photo.

As you can see in her work, the women are subjected to specific types of abuse, from the forced use of makeup, short skirts and high heel shoes to “reinforce their femininity”, to physical violence and “corrective” violations:

This is an image of a my new photographic series ‘Until You Change’

In Ecuador approximately 200 facilities exist to ‘cure’ homosexual men and women. Operations are masked under the guise of drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres. Imprisoned against their will those interned are subject to emotional and physical torture.
To raise awareness of an on-going human rights issue that continues to resist mainstream media in Ecuador, I recreated scenes form these ‘clinics’ based upon victim testimony. Being gay and from Ecuador, I chose myself as the protagonist of the images. I incorporated my own emotions and experiences with theatrical methods to explore the abuse of women in these institutions, staging a series of images based on the testimony of the women who I interviewed.

This is not the first time that these “dehomosexualization” clinics, generally associated with Evangelical Christian groups, have been the target of action, creative or otherwise. In 2012, several of these centers were investigated and later closed.

Nevertheless, the work of Paredes reveals that these secret centers continue to exist and implement treatments that violate human rights. In addition to the photography, she uploaded a video to Vimeo that documents the process of making the series and captures some of the specific traumatic experiences that survivors had told her they had experienced:

Originally published in Global Voices.

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