A petition has been launched, demanding an end to Ecuadorian “torture clinics” allegedly designed to turn lesbians straight.

The petition, addressed to Ecuadorian Health Minister David Chiriboga, welcomes moves by the Ecuadorian government to close some 27 such clinics – but points out that over 200 are still open.

According to the petition letter, escaping patients have reported cases of physical and psychological abuse including verbal threats, shackling, days without food, sexual abuse, and physical torture – inflicted in an attempt to “cure” their sexuality.

Paula Ziritti, 24, who escaped after two years in one such facility, told of three months when she was shackled in handcuffs while guards threw water and urine on her. She also described numerous accounts of physical and sexual abuse.

She says: “The closure of the first clinics by the government is good, but not good enough. Why is the clinic where I suffered still open?”

Writer and sexual rights campaigner Jane Fae warned of the dangers of “medicalising and pathologising human sexuality”.

She said: “We’ve seen it in the US, and occasionally in the UK too, with ‘reparative therapy’, as well as surgical interventions designed to ‘normalise’ the bodies of intersex children.”

Homosexuality has been legal in Ecuador since 1997, with state recognition of same-sex relationships being introduced in 2009.

The petition, which is supported by Fundacion Causana, an LGBT human-rights organization, and a coalition of other Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender groups has so far attracted almost 80,000 signatures.

The petition can be found on the website change.org, here.