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Chilean Senate Votes In Support of LGBT Civil Unions

ChileAfter hours of heated debate the Chilean Senate voted in favor of legalizing same sex unions throughout the entire country. Though the approved bill does not, technically, make same-sex marriage possible, provisions within the law seek to put gay unions at parity with their heterosexual counterparts. Two previous versions of the bill were blocked by AVP, a conservative organization working to limit cohabitation benefits like inheritance and power of attorney, for both gay and straight couples.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” said Sen. José Ossandón, who opposed the bill “I recognize that homosexuals have rights…I recognize that is not the AVP.”

Michelle_BacheletMoving forward the bill will be presented to the Chilean House of Deputies where it will be further reviewed, put up for approval, and passed along to Chile’s recently elected President Michelle Bachelet. In the past Bachelet has been vocal about her support of marriage equality and an expansion of rights for Chile’s trans community. Many Chileans, however, feel that she is not doing enough to improve upon her predecessor’s relationship to Chile’s queer population

In 2012 Chile’s former president Sebastián Piñera introduced an updated version of Chile’s anti-hate crimes law in response to the murder of Daniel Samudio, a 24-year old gay man. He was also responsible for introducing a much earlier version of the LGBT civil union law in 2011. Though Piñera was partially supporting of LGBT citizens, his government also made headlines for arguing against a re-definition of marriage that would have allowed for same sex couples to wed.


Chilean Clothing Company Pulls Ad Featuring Same-Sex Kissing, Gay Activists Create Parody: VIDEO

Kiss

As the BBC reports, Chilean clothing company la Polar recently unveiled a new ad that featured same-sex couples kissing. However, two days later, the company pulled the ad without explanation and replaced it with a 'toned down' version that showed same-sex couples being less affectionate. That move in turn upset many gay activists in the country who decided to create a parody of the original ad that aimed to be "the gayest commercial ever."

Watch a report on both videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

March

Continue reading "Chilean Clothing Company Pulls Ad Featuring Same-Sex Kissing, Gay Activists Create Parody: VIDEO" »


Navy Officer Becomes First Member of Chilean Military to Come Out as Gay: VIDEO

Ruiz

At a televised news conference yesterday, Navy officer Mauricio Ruiz, 24, became the first member of the Chilean military to come out as gay.

Equally as groundbreaking was the fact that Ruiz' announcement came with the full backing of the Chilean armed forces.  

BBC reports:

Ruiz2"We can do anything, be marines or in any branch (of the military). We can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else," he told reporters in the Chilean capital, Santiago.

"In life there's nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are."

Rolando Jimenez, president of Chile's Movement for Integration and Homosexual Liberation, expressed his gratitude to the Chilean Navy.

"(The Navy is) telling the country and the members of the institution particularly that it is possible for gays and lesbians to be part of the armed forces and that they aren't going to suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation within these institutions," Mr Jimenez said.

Watch a Spanish-language report on Ruiz' announcement, AFTER THE JUMP...

Chile remains a highly conservative, Catholic country - where even divorce wasn't allowed until 2004. And despite a 2012 law aimed at combating anti-gay discrimination and hate crimes, LGBT individuals continue to face prejudice and unequal treatment under the law. 

A law governing same-sex unions is currently being debated, with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet coming out in favor of marriage equality despite a majority of Chileans opposing the idea. 

Continue reading "Navy Officer Becomes First Member of Chilean Military to Come Out as Gay: VIDEO" »


Malfunctioning Elevator In Chile Rises Thirty Floors In Fifteen Seconds, Injures Passenger: VIDEO

ElevatorPeril

A Chilean man riding an out-of-control elevator sustained leg and head injuries when the mechanics malfunctioned, according to news reports, causing it to rise thirty floors in fifteen seconds before crashing into the building's roof. The elevator, located in Bustamente Community Park in Providencia, Chile was reportedly installed only eight months ago.

Check out the terrifying surveillance footage (not for the elevator-phobic), AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Malfunctioning Elevator In Chile Rises Thirty Floors In Fifteen Seconds, Injures Passenger: VIDEO" »


Gay Chilean Man Dies of Injuries Suffered in Homophobic Attack

Wladimir Sepulveda, a 21-year-old Chilean man, has died of injuries suffered in a brutal homophobic attack last October. He has been in a coma since, El Pais reports:

SepulvedaAccording to the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh) – the country’s largest gay collective – Sepúlveda was beaten by at least four suspects as he was walking home with a friend after swimming in a nearby river in San Francisco de Mostazal, south of the Chilean capital.

Both Sepúlveda’s family and Movilh have announced they will press charges against all the suspects under anti-gay discrimination legislation that was passed following the violent 2012 death of another homosexual, Daniel Zamudio, which shocked the country.

“This latest death just goes to show how much more we have to advance as a society,” said Álvaro Elizalde, a government spokesman, in a statement. “We hope that justice will be served, the facts of the case are cleared, and the corresponding punishment is determined.”

The Santiago Times adds that LGBT rights groups are outraged over the judicial process:

Campaign group and legal representatives of the victim’s family, the Movement for Integration and Homosexual Freedom (Movilh), criticized the judge presiding over the trial in a public statement on Sunday.

“Today, Wladimir lost his life while the only person to admit to the crime, Christopher Morales, is only on night-time house arrest as a result of the incomprehensible decision of Judge Pablo Aceituno,” reads the statement. “This judge is the same person who — at the beginning of proceedings and without knowing the details of the case — discounted the possibility that this was a homophobic attack. Furthermore, he suggested it was ‘logical and normal’ to attack someone based on their sexual orientation. In light of this unacceptable behavior, we are considering taking disciplinary action against the judge.”

Families and friends of Sepúlveda say they have received threats after charges were made.

Movilh President Rolando Jiménez said the Sepúlveda case highlighted flaws in the country’s first comprehensive anti-discrimination law — dubbed the “Zamudio law” in commemoration of the 24-year-old slain by self-proclaimed neo-nazis in 2012.

“One of the most important issues is to invert the burden of proof. It should be the brutal attackers — like those in the case of Wladimir — who must prove their actions were not based on prejudice rather than leaving it to the victim to prove the presence of homophobia,” Jiménez said in a press release. “In this instance, the law descends into absurdity. Wladimir has been in a vegetative state since the attack, how can he prove his version of events?”


Cutting Foreign Aid Won't Defeat Anti-Gay Laws in Africa and Latin America

BY ARI SHAW AND MAURICIO ALBARRACÍN / GlobalPost

Commentary: Human rights courts and commissions are the best tools to diminish violence and strengthen LGBT rights.

MuseveniBOGOTA — Will cuts to foreign aid as a response to anti-gay laws help the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Africa? The conventional wisdom seems to say “yes.”

Recent legislation in Uganda, which imposes a life sentence for “aggravated homosexuality” and criminalizes any promotion of homosexuality, has been rightly condemned as a violation of the fundamental equality and dignity of LGBT people.

In response, a number of Western countries, including Norway, Denmark and Sweden, have withdrawn foreign assistance, and the World Bank froze a $90 million loan to Uganda.

These actions, while understandable, are misguided.

Condemnation by foreign governments, including the United States, is an important symbolic measure and can help delegitimize anti-gay laws. Yet cuts in foreign assistance can have the unintended effect of emboldening homophobic rhetoric that links aid and LGBT rights to neocolonial intervention.

This would further endanger the lives of LGBT citizens in these countries.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act has received broad support among Ugandans. Its author has said that any costs in foreign aid are “worth it.”
 
RedpepperMeanwhile, activists report an increase in arrests and harassment of LGBT people, and a similar bill in Nigeria has led to a rash of mob violence against gays and lesbians.

Foreign governments and international donors seeking to help should, instead, increase financial and technical support for African LGBT rights organizations and human rights institutions.

LGBT activists in many African states face highly restrictive and dangerous conditions that limit their ability advocate for reforms. In many cases, these laws not only discriminate against LGBT individuals but also criminalize or severely restrict public dissent and association around LGBT issues.

The burgeoning African system of human rights courts and commissions should be strengthened to provide an important and necessary tool for enhancing LGBT rights and activism in the region.

The experience of LGBT rights activism in another developing region — Latin America — offers insight into the roles regional human rights bodies can play.

In the past several years, advances in gay rights in Latin America have outpaced those in the United States and some European nations. Argentina and Uruguay, for instance, have full marriage equality, while Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia offer some form of legal protection for same-sex couples and families.

Violence and inequality persist, but in many national debates around LGBT rights, the Inter-American human rights system has been an important resource for gay rights activists.

IachrIndividuals and nongovernmental organizations can appeal directly to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which investigates and offers recommendations to remedy cases of human rights abuse.

Consequently, the quasi-judicial commission has been an active forum for documenting and publicizing human rights abuses.

In the past five years, the commission has held 17 public hearings related to gay rights, same-sex unions, and homophobic violence in the Americas.

Since February 2012, it has issued 31 news releases drawing national and international media attention to the plight of LGBT communities in member countries and across the region.

The commission has also visited countries to highlight the negative conditions for LGBT people there. And, as of February 1, the commission has a permanent office with a mandate to monitor human rights abuses against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights only hears cases referred by the commission or from petitions by national governments, but its rulings are legally binding.

Most notably, in a 2012 case against Chile, the court ruled that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected categories under the American Convention on Human Rights. As a result, no domestic laws may be promulgated that restrict individual rights on these grounds.

The ruling has not only shaped the ongoing debate in Chile around marriage equality and same-sex families, but has also set binding precedent for national judges in member states facing same-sex marriage litigation.

The African regional human rights system might play a similar role in augmenting the work of LBGT rights activists in the region. Following the lead of its Inter-American organization, the African Commission could take a more active role as a public forum to highlight violence against LGBT people and publicly shame governments that fail to protect them.

Moreover, the commission could coordinate more closely with the tapestry of sub-regional African courts, such as the East African Court of Justice, that are increasingly asserting their jurisdiction to hear cases involving human rights violations.

To be sure, regional human rights systems are no panacea for ending human rights abuses against LGBT people. The process can be frustratingly slow, often taking years to reach a ruling.

These institutions lack strong enforcement powers, and some leaders openly defy their judgments. The African system in particular has faced charges of inefficiency, while the nascent African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has struggled to become fully operational.

Regional human rights institutions can provide crucial publicity, legitimacy and legal precedent for LGBT rights activists in the face of stifling national laws.

A strengthened African regional human rights system can bypass critiques of foreign intervention and create external pressure on national governments that bolsters the work of local activists. The best lesson from LGBT activism in the Inter-American system is that the amplified voices of citizens are often the most persuasive.

Ari Shaw is currently a Fulbright Scholar in Colombia researching the impact of international law on LGBT activism. Mauricio Albarracín is a lawyer with Colombia Diversa, a national LGBT rights organization based in Bogotá.


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