LGBT rights in Ecuador

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LGBT rights in Ecuador
ECU orthographic.svg
Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status Yes
Gender identity/expression Yes
Military service Unknown
Discrimination protections Yes, constitutional protections
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2009
Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman
Adoption Same-sex couples may not adopt. Single persons not restricted

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Ecuador may face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Ecuador, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for all of the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

In 1998, Ecuador became one of the first countries in the world to constitutionally ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since 2009, civil unions with all of the rights of marriage (expect for adoption) have been available to same-sex couples. Additionally, transgender people under the 2016 Gender Identity Law may change their legal gender without the use of surgery. However, the Constitution of Ecuador provides that marriage shall only be between a man and a woman. In 2013, gay activist Pamela Troya filed a lawsuit to strike down that ban and legalise same-sex marriage in the country. The lawsuit currently remains pending with the Supreme Court and focuses mostly on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights' ruling in Atala Riffo and Daughters v. Chile. The Atala case has caused bans on same-sex marriage in Mexico to be struck down and Chile's Government pledging to legalise same-sex marriage. Additionally, in January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that same-sex marriage is a human right protected by the American Convention on Human Rights, adding even more pressure on the Ecuadoran Government and the Supreme Court to legalise same-sex marriage.[1]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Ecuador since 1997 when the Constitutional Tribunal, in Case No. 111-97-TC, overturned the first paragraph of Article 516 of the Penal Code, which criminalized sexual activities between persons of the same sex.[2]

The age of consent in Ecuador is 14, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.[3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Article 67 of the Ecuadorian Constitution adopted in 2009[4] limits marriage to the union of a man and a woman.[5] However, according to an unofficial English language translation of Article 68, the article also provides that same-sex couples in stable and monogamous unions shall enjoy the same rights and obligations as married couples.

The stable and monogamous union between two persons without any other marriage ties who have a common-law home, for the lapse of time and under the conditions and circumstances provided for by law, shall enjoy the same rights and obligations of those families bound by formal marriage ties.[5][Note 1]

Based on Article 68, civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Ecuador.[6][7]

In 2013, gay activist Pamela Troya filed a lawsuit to strike down Ecuador's same-sex marriage ban and legalise same-sex marriage in the country. The lawsuit currently remains pending with the Supreme Court.

In August 2014, President Rafael Correa signed a resolution to allow same-sex de facto couples to register their unions. It also allows domestic partnerships to be registered as a complementary data to marital status and created a special registry for these unions.[8] The order took effect on September 15.[9]

In April 2015, the National Assembly approved an amendment to the Civil Code that allows same-sex couples to register their de facto unions, deleting the requirement of evidence of cohabitation for at least two years.[10]

2018 Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling[edit]

In January 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) ruled that the American Convention on Human Rights mandates and requires the recognition of same-sex marriage. The ruling was fully binding on Costa Rica and sets a binding precedent for other Latin American and Caribbean countries including Ecuador.[1]

In May 2018, the Ecuador Supreme Court ruled in favor of a lesbian couple seeking to have their daughter registered with the Civil Registry (see below). In the ruling, the Supreme Court also stated that the IACHR ruling is fully binding on Ecuador.[11]

Adoption and parenting[edit]

Article 68 of the Ecuador Constitution states, "La adopción corresponderá sólo a parejas de distinto sexo."[12] An unofficial English language translation of this provision states, "Adoption shall only be permitted for different-gender couples."[5] The constitution is silent about adoptions by single individuals.

Under Ecuadorean statutory law, however, a single person is allowed to adopt a child, although a legally constituted heterosexual couple has priority over the single person.[Note 2]

In May 2018, the Ecuador Supreme Court ordered the Civil Registry to register a seven-year-old girl as the daughter of a lesbian couple. The case, filed in September 2012, sought to have the daughter registered with the surnames of both her mothers. The Court ruled that failing to register the daughter is a violation of children's rights.[13] The vote was 5 to 3, with one abstention.

Discrimination protections[edit]

LGBT flag map of Ecuador

In 1998, Ecuador became the first country in the Americas (and only the third worldwide) to include sexual orientation as a protected category in its Constitution.[2]

Ecuador includes both sexual orientation and gender identity in its constitutional prohibition against discrimination. An unofficial English language translation of Article 11(2) states,

All persons are equal and shall enjoy the same rights, duties and opportunities. No one shall be discriminated against for reasons of ethnic belonging, place of birth, age, sex, gender identity, cultural identity, civil status, language, religion, ideology, political affiliation, legal record, socio-economic condition, migratory status, sexual orientation, health status, HIV carrier, disability, physical difference or any other distinguishing feature, whether personal or collective, temporary or permanent, which might be aimed at or result in the diminishment or annulment of recognition, enjoyment or exercise of rights. All forms of discrimination are punishable by law. The State shall adopt affirmative action measures that promote real equality for the benefit of the rights-bearers who are in a situation of inequality.[5]

In 2015, a labor law reform made it illegal for employers to discriminate against people due to their sexual orientation.[14][15]

Gender identity and expression[edit]

The Gender Identity Law, approved in 2016, allows Ecuadorians to state their gender identity instead of the sex assigned at birth. The law distributes new legal ID cards to those wishing to change their gender and birth name.[16][17][18]

Conversion therapy[edit]

In November 2011, an Ecuadorean activist group, called Fundación Causana, began a petition on to entreat the Ecuadorean Minister of Health to close down more than 200 "ex-gay clinics". The group claimed that the clinics abuse and torture patients in an effort to "cure homosexuality".

The clinics primarily targeted lesbians[19] and operated under the guise of being drug rehabilitation centers.[20] At least one pair of parents discovered the abuse and asked for the clinic to release their daughter, Paola Ziritti, but were denied. Ziritti was eventually released after two years of confinement and was the first to press a formal complaint against the clinics.[20]

Activists consequently called on the Government to close down the clinics, but by August 2011, only 27 had been closed, while a reported 207 clinics remained open.[21]

On 23 January 2012, the petition was closed and marked as a success with 113,761 international signatures. The petition also was updated with a statement from Fundacion Causana reading,

After ten years of outcry, 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. We extend our thanks to all the men and women who signed our petition. It has been invaluable to have this support in starting to change this reality.

Carina Vance Mafla's Ministry of Health shortly thereafter raided three clinics in the vicinity of Quito and rescued dozens of women.[22]

Living conditions[edit]

LGBTI Pride Parade in Guayaquil (2013).

A fairly large gay scene has developed in Quito and Guayaquil.[23] The first gay pride in Ecuador took place in Quito, in 1998, following the Constitutional Court ruling that overturned the law that prohibited sexual acts between people of the same sex.[24] Nevertheless, Ecuador has a conservative and macho culture, and homosexuality continues to be viewed negatively by society.[23]

Since the last decade, many gay pride marches have been organized in all major cities, with the authorization of authorities and police protection, in addition to their participation. In Guayaquil's gay pride march of 2011, for instance, among those present were the Guayas Province's Vice Prefect Luzmila Nicolaide, Guayaquil Cty Council member Gino Molinari, and member of the Assembly Gina Godoy, while the police band played traditional songs.[25][26]

There have also been LGBT film festivals organized in the major cities.[27]

The U.S. Department of State's 2011 Human Rights Report found that,

The constitution includes the principle of nondiscrimination and establishes choice of sexual orientation as a right. Although the law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons continued to suffer discrimination from both public and private bodies. LGBT organizations reported that transgender persons suffered more discrimination because they were more visible. LGBT groups claimed that police and prosecutors did not thoroughly investigate deaths of LGBT individuals, including when there was suspicion that the killing was because of sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT organizations and credible media sources reported that LGBT persons were interned against their will in private treatment centers to "cure" or "dehomosexualize" them, although such treatment is illegal. The clinics reportedly used cruel treatments, including rape, in an attempt to change LGBT persons' sexual orientation. In August[,] the government reported that it closed 30 such centers, but LGBT organizations reported that other illegal clinics continued to operate. Members of the LGBT community continued to report that their right of equal access to formal education was frequently violated. The LGBT population involved in the commercial sex trade reported abusive situations, extortion, and mistreatment by security forces.[28]

In 2012, President Rafael Correa appointed Carina Vance Mafla, a lesbian activist, as the country's Health Minister.[29]

In 2017, approximately 20,000 people marched in the Guayaquil Gay Pride parade. For the first time, the municipality of Guayaquil agreed to light up the Bolivar and San Martin Monument with the colors of the rainbow in support of LGBT rights.[30] In June 2017, the Presidential House was illuminated in rainbow colors.[31]

2013 election homophobic remarks[edit]

After the 2013 Ecuadorian general election, Nelson Zavala, an evangelical preacher and the presidential candidate who finished last out of the eight candidates, was sentenced by an election court to pay more than $3,000 in fines for his homophobic remarks. The court also prohibited him for a year from standing as a candidate or from affiliating himself or being involved with a political party or movement. During the campaign, he called gay people "sinners" and "immoral" and said they suffered from "severe deviation of conduct". LGBT activists applauded the ruling as "landmark".[32][33] Zavala appealed the verdict, but the ruling was ratified in the last instance on 19 March 2013.[34]

LGBTI candidacy[edit]

Historic meeting with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, led by Diane Rodríguez
Diane Rodríquez and her partner became one of the first couples to register a de facto union in Ecuador.

In the 2013 elections, LGBTI activist Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano of the Silueta X Association, became the first openly transgender candidate to run for public office.[35][36][37] At the conclusion of her candidacy, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado declared his respect and admiration for Rodriquez on Twitter.[38][39][40] Months later, Rodriguez was invited to change the Presidential Guard.[41] In December 2013, she led the first LGBTI group meeting with President Rafael Correa.[42] The meeting concluded with several agreements.[43] In 2017, she was elected to the National Assembly, becoming the country's first transgender lawmaker.[44]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1997)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1997)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 1998)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 1998)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 1998)
Same-sex marriages No (Constitutional ban since 2009; legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Recognition of same-sex couples Yes (Since 2009)
Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples No (Legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No (Constitutional ban since 2009; legalisation required per a 2018 IACHR ruling)
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military Emblem-question.svg[45]
Right to change legal gender (legal precedent) Yes (Since 2009)
Gender identity recognition in identity cards Yes (Since 2016)[18]
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (Since 2018)
Access to IVF for lesbians No
Conversion therapy banned on minors No/Yes (Many clinics have been shut down, but there are still some operating clandestinely)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Emblem-question.svg

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In Spanish, the official version of Article 68 reads as follows:

    La unión estable y monogámica entre dos personas libres de vínculo matrimonial que formen un hogar de hecho, por el lapso y bajo las condiciones y circunstancias que señale la ley, generará los mismos derechos y obligaciones que tienen las familias constituidas mediante matrimonio. Article 68, Constitución de la República del Ecuador

  2. ^ In Spanish, the official version of the statute reads as follows: "Se priorizará la adopción por parte de parejas heterosexuales constituidas legalmente, sobre la adopción por parte de personas solas...." Article 153(3), Código de la Niñez y Adolescencia de Ecuador, retrieved 26 January 2013


  1. ^ a b "Inter-American Court endorses same-sex marriage". Agence France-Presse. Yahoo7. 9 January 2018. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Shutting Down Clinics that 'Cure Homosexuality' in Ecuador", The Human Rights Brief, Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, reported by Christina Fetterhoff, 28 November 2011, retrieved 23 January 2013
  3. ^ (in Spanish) CODIGO PENAL ECUADOR
  4. ^ "Voters in Ecuador Approve Constitution", Washington Post, reported by Joshua Partlow and Stephan Küffner, 29 September 2008
  5. ^ a b c d Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, Political Database of the Americas, 31 January 2011
  6. ^ (in Spanish) "Apoyo al matrimonio entre personas del mismo sexo en América Latina", Perspectivas desde el Barómetro de las Américas, authored by Germán Lodola and Margarita Corral, 2010 (No. 44), retrieved 23 January 2013 Archived 6 July 2013 at WebCite
  7. ^ "Ecuador Approves New Constitution Including Same-Sex Civil Unions", Towleroad, posted by Andy Towle, 30 September 2008, retrieved 23 January 2013
  8. ^ Civil, Registro. "REGISTRO DE UNIONES DE HECHO". Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  9. ^ "Desde el 15 de septiembre se reconocerán las uniones de hecho como un estado civil - ANDES". Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  10. ^ Ecuador reconoce la Unión de Hecho Homosexual como un estado civil
  12. ^ (in Spanish) Article 68, Constitución de la República del Ecuador
  13. ^ Gay family recognised by state in Ecuador in historic decision, PinkNews, 31 May 2018
  15. ^ "Ecuador Makes Important Strides for LGBTI People". Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  16. ^ "Ecuadorean Lawmakers Approve New Gender Identity Law". Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  17. ^ "Change of 'gender' in identity card will require two witnesses - - Breaking News, Ecuador News, World, Sports, Entertainment". Retrieved 26 June 2016. 
  19. ^ "Lesbian Torture Clinics in Ecuador- Claiming to "Cure" Them". Hispanically Speaking News. Hispanically Speaking News. 5 November 2011. Archived from the original on 12 December 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  20. ^ a b "Why 200 Lesbian Torture Clinics Are Still Operating in Ecuador". The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  21. ^ "Lesbians Escape From Ecuador's "Ex-Gay" Torture Centers". The Advocate. The Advocate. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "Rights groups hail Ecuador's crackdown on lesbian 'torture clinics'". MSNBC. 25 January 2012. Archived from the original on 10 June 2012. 
  23. ^ a b "Gay Ecuador". Gay Guide. Gay Times. Archived from the original on 19 October 2012. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  24. ^ (in Spanish) El Universo El GLBTI, colectivo que gana espacios. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  25. ^ (in Spanish)"Comunidad Glbti del Ecuador celebró Día del Orgullo Gay", El Universo, reported by Alexandra Avila, 2 July 2011
  26. ^ (in Spanish)"Desfile del orgullo 2011 en Guayaquil", Gay Ecuador
  27. ^ (in Spanish)"Es Ecuador sede de festival de cine LGBT en Latinoamérica", Inthecloset, 12 October 2011
  28. ^ 2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ecuador, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. Department of State, page 25
  29. ^ "Ecuador: Lesbian Activist Appointed to Presidential Cabinet", The Advocate, reported by Michelle Garcia, 24 January 2012
  30. ^ (in Spanish) Matrimonio igualitario y registro de niños: pedidos ciudadanos en la marcha del Orgullo LGTBI
  31. ^ (in Spanish) El Palacio de #Carondelet se ilumina al recordar el Día Internacional del Orgullo LGBTI
  32. ^ "Ecuador preacher sentenced for homophobic comments", BBC News, 11 March 2013
  33. ^ "Ecuadorian Ex Presidential Candidate And Preacher, Nelson Zavala, Penalized For Homophobic Comments", The Huffington Post, 12 March 2013
  34. ^ (in Spanish)"TCE ratifica sentencia contra excandidato presidencial Nelson Zavala", El Universo, 19 March 2013
  35. ^ First Transgender Candidate in Ecuador Ecuavisa - Televistazo . Retrieved 17 September 2013
  36. ^ Diario El Comercio - In Spanish Breaking drives transgender candidate. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  37. ^ Extra Journal - In Spanish Archived 24 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine., Exceeded the discrimination and now struggle for social inclusion! Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  38. ^ Twitter President Ecuador, Rafael Correa - In Spanish, "@DianeRodriguezZ Estimada Diane: sólo quería decirle que la admiro y respeto profundamente, aunque no comparta todos sus postulados." Retrieved on 8 May 2014.
  39. ^ Social Promises - In Spanish Archived 12 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine., Retrieved on 8 May 2014.
  40. ^ Diario el Comercio - In Spanish, "Gays have a place for meetings". Retrieved on 8 May 2014.
  41. ^ Gender Studies Network - In Spanish President Rafael Correa invites presidential change of guard transsexual activist Diane Rodriguez. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  42. ^ Agency Los Andes, Historic meeting between the President of Ecuador and the GLBTI community to allow moving forward in claiming rights. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  43. ^ Journal Universo - In Spanish, 15 murders of GLBTI investigate the government. Retrieved 27 March 2014.
  44. ^ Ecuador Makes History With Its First Transgender Lawmaker
  45. ^ IACHR Takes Case concerning Ecuador to the Inter-American Court