Chile’s Lawmakers Vow Action Over Gay Hate Crime Death
Chile’s lawmakers finally appear willing to push through an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination bill following the brutal murder of 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio.
This comes after the United Nations last week issued a strong statement calling on Chile’s lawmakers to act.
“We deplore the violent criminal act that took the life of this young man and urge the Chilean Congress to pass a law against discrimination, including on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, in full compliance with relevant international human rights standards,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.
“The case should be seen in the wider context of hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons around the world,” he added.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera addressed the incident this week.
“We want to reiterate today that we have made a commitment. We are not going to tolerate any kind of discrimination against Chilean citizens based on their socioeconomic status, their religion or sexual orientation,” he said.
A [nondiscrimination] bill was introduced seven years ago but has languished as conservative groups blocked its passage.
“At every turn, this law has been cut. At every turn, there have been efforts to trim it. There was even resistance to having discrimination based on sexual orientation included in the (bill). This is something Chile can no longer permit. And now, after the death of Daniel, which has brought this moment of sensibility, it is time to pass” the bill, said Carolina Toha, president of the liberal Party for Democracy.
Nondiscrimination legislation once again passed the Chilean Senate with a strong majority in November of last year but, continuing a seven year trend, the legislation has so far failed to come up for a vote in Chile’s lower house.
The Associated Press tells that this is largely due to evangelical lobbyists who say that the law would be a first step toward gay marriage — even though there is no such language in the bill.
The text of the bill describes illegal discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction that lacks reasonable justification, committed by agents of the state or individuals, and that causes the deprivation, disturbance or threatens the legitimate exercise of fundamental rights established by the constitution or in international human rights treaties ratified by Chile.”
Zamudio died last Tuesday from the horrific injuries he sustained in early March. His attackers beat him in a Santiago park with bottles and rocks, cut off part of his ear, and allegedly used glass to carve three swastikas into his flesh. Doctors were forced to induce a coma so as to try and give Zamudio the best chance of survival but, despite early indications that he might survive, Zamudio’s condition worsened and he was unable to recover.
While nondiscrimination legislation would not have actively saved Zamudio’s life, supporters of the bill say that passing the law would make an unequivocal statement that Chile’s administration will not tolerate discrimination against its LGBT citizens.
Charges against the suspects in this case, four men aged between 19 and 25 who are all thought to have links to a neo Nazi group, have been upped from attempted murder to aggravated murder. So far the men have all denied the charges.
The family of Zamudio led a funeral procession through their neighborhood Friday. They were joined by hundres of people who lined the streets to mourn the loss of the 24-year old and to make clear that the government must act to stem the brutality of violent crimes against Chile’s LGBT citizens.