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Chile gay marriage bill on the table; regional anti-gay violence becoming more extreme

Written by Tony Hobday

In 2016, Chilean president Michelle Bachelet announced her government would introduce a marriage equality bill in 2017. She stuck to her words. The government, in January, started an open public discussion on same-sex marriage aimed at producing a “satisfactory bill on marriage equality, recognizing the same rights for everyone.” It was, Bachelet said, “not only a demand of the international justice system, but a legitimate demand of Chilean society.”

Bachelet introduced the bill Tuesday to legalize gay marriage, the latest move in a run of liberal reforms in one of Latin America’s most conservative nations. “We do this with the certainty that it is not ethical nor fair to put artificial limits on love, nor to deny essential rights just because of the sex of those who make up a couple,” Bachelet said.

But tensions still run rampant in the country. In July, a protest organized by the ultra-conservative Catholic group Hazte Oir (Make Yourself Heard) arrived in the capital of Santiago in an outcry of Bachelet’s bill. It was, however, met by a counter-demonstration by LGBT advocacy groups. Police were then forced to intervene with tear gas and water cannon when a brawl broke out among the 300 protesters, after the Hazte Oir group called the LGBT demonstrators “pedophiles” and “family killers.”

Latin America as a whole has the highest rate of violence against the LGBT community, according to Transgender Europe, a non-governmental organization, but the region has laws about same-sex marriage and adoption, changing gender on national ID cards, and anti-discrimination laws that all went into effect in the past decade.

On March 3, 2017, CNN reported on an attack in 2008 of a Peruvian gay man, Luis Alberto Rojas Marin, who was arrested by police while walking home shortly after midnight. While “in police custody, he says, he was stripped, raped with a baton and verbally abused by police officers before being let go. All of this, he says, because of his sexuality.”

Marin has complained about the abuse over the last nine years to no avail. Currently he has a case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which monitors and protects human rights in the Americas. The commission heard his case Dec. 1, which is still under review.

“I would have liked to be able to turn the page on this, and to put this behind me. But I am putting my face out there for everyone (who has been a victim),” Marin told CNN. “I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this because I am a human being who pleads for and begs for justice for all the people who have been victims and anyone that might have died.”

Sebastián Urrutia Lutz, a gay man, was attacked in 2012 by a group of men while leaving a party in a gay neighborhood in Santiago. Sebastian says witnesses stood by while he was savagely beaten on the street, the CNN report continued.

Lutz argues that while more LGBT people have been coming out of the closet in Chile, some of the violence is a backlash to society’s increasing acceptance of the LGBT community.

“That has made a lot of people that dislike [LGBT people] become more frustrated that our society is accepting us and considering us normal people,” he told CNN. “They are really angry and they want to express that.”

According to a 2015 report by the IACHR, nearly 600 people died across Latin America from anti-LGBT violence between January 2013 and March 2014. The report, and other reports from the region, show that violence against LGBT individuals is becoming more extreme. They are often stoned, tortured and raped before they are killed, and crimes often go unpunished.

 

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Tony Hobday

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