Ecuador: Homosexuality Legal

On November 25, Ecuador's Constitutional Tribunal repealed the law that criminalized same-sex sexual relations between consenting adults. The Tribunal determined unanimously that part 1 of article 516 of the Penal Code was unconstitutional. This section of the law stated that homosexual relations between consenting adults could be punished with four to eight years' imprisonment.

The law was not only used to criminalize same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults, but also to harass, discriminate, and persecute gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people in Ecuador. One of the many instances of harassment received national and international attention, when last June police raided the Abanicos Bar in Cuenca, arresting 14 gay men, charging them with intention to commit a crime against morality, and reportedly standing by as one of the detainees was raped twice by other inmates.

The recent repeal of the sodomy laws in Ecuador represents a great victory for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities in Ecuador. Local activists have been organizing in their fight to repeal this unjust law for ten years. In 1994, the Ecuadorian Foundation of Actions and Education for the Promotion of Health (FEDAEPS) denounced the repression of sexual minorities in Ecuador before the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States. At that time Michael Reisman of the Commission warned the Ecuadorian government that the practice of arresting persons based solely on their sexual orientation contravened the American Convention on Human Rights.

Activists also initiated a campaign of public education about homosexuality, that culminated with their gathering over 1,460 signatures from concerned citizens from all over Ecuador, demanding that the case be heard by the Constitutional Tribunal. Such signature gathering is a prerequisite for the admission of cases before the Tribunal. Legal action was undertaken by the Lesbian-Gay Ecuadorian Andean Triangle Movement, the Lesbian-Gay Collective "En Directo", the group Tolerance and the transgender group Coccinelli.

"This is an historical success of the lesbian and gay community and of the democracy of our country," proclaimed FEDAEP's Albis Cruz.

"We hope that the governments of Chile, Nicaragua, and Puerto Rico, pay attention to the news from Quito," said Mirka Negroni, Regional Specialist at the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, "these are the last states in the Latin America that still criminalize homosexual activity."