Chile passes “Zamudio Law” criminalizing homophobia
Chile’s president, Sebastian Piñera signed an anti-discrimination bill into law yesterday (July 12) that would apply fines to anyone convicted. Originally presented to the Latin American country’s Congress 7 years ago, the passage of the law was prompted by the brutal gay-bashing and murder of 24 yr/old Daniel Zamudio, in March.
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Known now as the “Zamudio Law,” Chile’s newly ratified anti-discrimination law will forever be associated with the 24 year-old gay man who was brutally beaten by a group of youth, in what is believed to be a homophobic attack. Zamudio’s death four weeks after the incident sent more shock waves through the country, which has been simultaneously undergoing massive social upheaval similar to Québec’s “Maple Spring”. Prompted by the United Nations, Chile’s National Congress approved the text of the law criminalizing homophobia in April; until Thursday, some observers fears the law would face further delays.
The law’s main thrust is to criminalize and apply harsh fines for “arbitrary discrimination” on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, beliefs, and race. The fines amount to anywhere between 380 to 3,750 Canadian dollars.
Murders and attacks not uncommmon
“Thanks to Daniel’s sacrifice, we have today a new law that will help build a freer, more human, more tolerant, more inclusive Chile – since we live in a country that has not often enough been willing to enforce respect for human rights,” President Piñero said in a speech after yesterday’s announcement. Rolando Jiménez, president of Chile’s Movilh (Movement for homosexual inclusion and liberation) called it “a good day: Chile is today a better country to live in,” he said.
Movilh estimates that 17 people were killed in attacks motivated by gender expression or sexual orientation between 2002 and 2012. Jiménez says there were over 800 discriminatory acts, most of which were physical attacks, in the same period.
In a country where sodomy laws were repealed only in 1999, the “Zamudio Law” is seen as a significant step away from the Catholic Church’s stranglehold on Chilean politics. As in North America and Europe, pedophile scandals have led to a waning political clout for Catholic leaders in recent years. In spite of the massive attention homophobic discrimination has obtained after Zamudio’s death, the right-of-centre congressional coalition run by the Unión Demócrata Independiente party has yet to show any sign of approving any further pro-gay laws, such as same-sex marriage.