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.
I discovered that around 200 clandestine centres are in operation. Over three quarters of Catholics and Protestants in Ecuador believe homosexuality is morally wrong. Parents send their children to otherwise clandestine legal drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres that operate as a front which house an alarming number of gay men, women and transsexuals. I spent six months interviewing a woman who had been sent to one of these religious ‘clinics’ by her parents and locked up for a number of months. With time, I gathered more first person accounts.
The centres’ secrecy made it impossible to approach this issue using traditional documenting practices. Instead I set out to reconstruct a series of images, based on details from real life accounts, using myself as the protagonist and carefully sourcing locations, actors and props. I incorporated my own emotions and experiences with theatrical methods to explore the abuse of women in these institutions.
These staged images allow us to see what was never meant to be seen. The perversion of pills and prayer books; the regime of forced femininity in make-up, short skirts and high heels; torture by rope or rubber gloves; the spectre of ‘corrective’ rape.
The human rights of these young men and women are disregarded by Ecuador’s government, these centers are camouflaged and hidden in remote areas and in small towns. Currently the Ecuadorean State does not have the capacity to regulate these clandestine places, and owner’s of these places are usually the military, the police, and doctors who hold the power. In some cases these horrendous tortures occur inside of churches and in worst instances the government is somewhat complicit in these actions.