The Radio Soap Opera That Revived a Genre and Put the Ecuadorian Lesbian Community on the Map


Two women at a gay pride parade in Guayaquil, 2013. Wikimedia Commons.

Almost 20 years after Ecuador decriminalized homosexuality, the daytime drama show “Mariana Is So Lesbian” is widely available on the radio and the Internet. The series tells the story of Mariana, a young woman living in Quito, who comes to accept her sexuality within the context of extreme homosexual repression. The story takes place in Ecuador during the 1990s—a time when federal laws classified LGBTQ communities as criminal. The radio soap opera was inspired by Foundation Causana, “a feminist lesbian group that advocates human rights for dissident identities.” The show was first broadcast on public radio in March this year, and was made available on Youtube the same month.

According to Diana Maldonado, who spoke to the local newspaper El Telégrafo on behalf of the Foundation, the show revives a storytelling genre that used to be very popular in the region to tell the stories of many women whose private lives were limited by the law. In Maldonado's eyes, these women have been talked about very little, even after the decriminalization:

Es una iniciativa buena, porque de una manera dinámica han abordado un tema del cómo fue el diario vivir de una mujer lesbiana en una época en la que la homosexualidad era considerada un delito. Es importante traer esto al día de hoy, en el que muchos jóvenes y chicas no conocen de esta realidad, que se puedan enterar de lo que era vivir en esa época y crear conciencia de lo que tiene que ver con nuestros derechos.

It's a good initiative that has found a dynamic way to address the idea of what it was like to live a day-to-day life as a lesbian woman during a time when homosexuality was considered a crime. It's important to bring this to today's world, in which many young people and girls don't know this reality, so they can grasp what it was like to live during that time and create an awareness of our rights.

The soap opera has a total of 11 episodes and is available on the Foundation Causana's YouTube channel.

Laws, Homosexuality, and Society

According to one anonymous blogger writing about the “legal framework of sexual diversity in Ecuador,” the legalization of the LGBTQ community was a watershed moment in the country's history, but the decriminalization was “only a partial victory,” considering the Constitutional Court's questionable rationale:

El Tribunal Constitucional no motivó su resolución de anular el delito de homosexualismo consentido bajo criterios de libertad de conciencia, de autonomía y soberanía corporal, tampoco de respeto a la diferencia, a la intimidad, al proyecto de vida y a la identidad y menos aún por la consideración de que la diversidad fuera valiosa y tuviera relevancia en el ámbito de los derechos culturales. El 516, inciso 2do, se despenalizó bajo tres consideraciones: Primera, que el homosexualismo era una enfermedad, segunda, que la condición de enfermedad eximía la responsabilidad delictiva; y tercera, que despenalizar esta enfermedad evitaría que se propagara en las cárceles.

The Constitutional Court did not decriminalize homosexuality based on ideals of freedom of conscience, autonomy, or bodily sovereignty, nor was it done out of respect for differences, intimacy, life plan, or identity. Nor was there any consideration that diversity is valuable and has relevance in the realm of cultural rights. Instead, Amendment 516, section 2, decriminalized homosexuality based on three considerations: first, homosexuality was a sickness; second, the condition of this sickness exempted all criminal responsibility; and third, decriminalizing this sickness would avoid the need to expand prisons.

While same-sex marriage remains illegal, Ecuador adopted same-sex domestic partnerships almost a decade ago, in 2008. Today, the country's LGBTQ community is still fighting for many basic rights, but stories like Mariana's and the stories of other women who appear on the radio show help shed light on persecution and love that has generally been kicked to Ecuador's social margins.

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