2017 was the “year of rage” for Chile’s queer and trans community.
A new report released this week finds reports of anti-LGBTQ discrimination against queer and people reached a 15-year high in the South American country. According to the advocacy group Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (MOVILH), 484 individuals claim to have experienced bias or direct attacks because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
That’s a 45 percent increase from the prior year, when 332 incidents were alleged to have taken place.
Of the complaints brought to the attention of LGBTQ groups, 56 cases involved verbal harassment or physical violence, whereas 38 of those reports detailed instances of workplace discrimination. Twenty individuals say the altercation took place at school. Two people were murdered.
As detailed in MOVILH’s 2017 “Sexual and Gender Diversity Human Rights Annual Report,” the organization points the finger at “equality opponents” for inspiring the recent spike in anti-LGBTQ hate. These groups “pursued unprecedented initiatives to torpedo any kind of legislation of public policy favorable to sexual and gender diversity,” the report claims.
Last year Catholic groups and right-wing organizations in Chile teamed up to sponsor the “Freedom Bus.” The mobile campaign urged citizens to oppose a landmark bill allowing individuals over the age of 18 to change their identity documents without a doctor’s approvalwhich passed the House this January.
Emblazoned with the phrase “Nicolas Has the Right to a Father and a Mother,” the orange bus wheeled into Santiago in June. Opponents of the bill carried signs warning: “Don’t Mess with My Children” and “State and Family.”
The report marks an unfortunate reversal of fortune for a country which had made substantial gains in LGBTQ rights in recent years.
Following the brutal killing of Daniel Zamudio in March 2012, Chile passed a hate crime law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or disability status. Zamudio was beaten by four men, who carved swastikas into his body, burned him with cigarettes, and urinated on their victim during the attack. He died three weeks later in the hospital.
Critics have claimed, though, the hate crime legislation is insufficient in preventing attacks against LGBTQ people. The law “does not include the proper protections and compensation for victims,” as the Washington Blade reported in 2017.
It also punishes victims who are unable to provide “evidence to prove their alleged abuses” by imposing fines against them, the LGBTQ newspaper claims.
In the months after the eponymous Zamudio Law passed in May 2012after years of stalling in the legislatureviolence continued to persist against queer and trans people. Five months after the bill’s passage, Wladimir Sepulveda was beaten unconscious by a gang of six attackers, who pushed him to the ground and repeatedly kicked him until he blacked out.
Sepulveda was walking arm-in-arm with another man in the San Francisco de Mostazal prior to the bloody beating. The central Chilean town is an hour’s drive from Santiago.
Advocacy groups warn that many acts of violence are not reported to authorities.
Despite these setbacks in progress for LGBTQ people, the Chilean government has continued to work to improve the lives of its queer and trans citizens. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has pushed for a “satisfactory bill on marriage equality, recognizing the same rights for everyone,” which was sent to the country’s legislature in August 2017. Debate on the bill began last November.
A 2016 report from America’s Quarterly found that Chile is South America’s 5th most accepting country of LGBTQ people, just behind Brazil and Colombia.
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