Gay Rights in Chile: Confronting Hate & Moving Forward

Daniel Zamudio (image via RCA)

Daniel Zamudio (image via RCA)

Sometimes it takes a horrific crime to shed light on an issue and make people take action. Such was the case in Chile last year when Daniel Zamudio was brutally tortured and murdered. According to The Economist:

Zamudio was beaten unconscious in a park in the capital, Santiago, for being gay. His four assailants carved swastikas into his skin, branded him with cigarettes and smashed his right leg with an 8kg rock. According to graphic court testimony released earlier this month, they then urinated on his body. Zamudio died in hospital three weeks later. He was 24.

The change that followed was brisk. Within weeks of the murder, legislators passed into law an anti-discrimination bill that had been kicking around Congress, largely ignored, for seven years. Gay rights have been a theme in the current presidential campaign. Most of the candidates, including the front-runner, Michelle Bachelet, say they now back gay marriage.

The men who attacked and murdered Daniel Zamudio have recently been found guilty of their crimes, but only one man received a life sentence. Two others received 15 years in prison, and another just 7 years behind bars. The victim’s family and the gay community in Chile have denounced the lenient punishment given to 3 of Daniel’s murderers.

The Economist warns:

…brutal attacks like the one on Zamudio continue. On October 20th a 21-year-old gay man, Wladimir Sepulveda, was assaulted in the town of San Francisco de Mostazal, 60km south of Santiago, as he walked home with another man. His six attackers included two women. Witnesses said the gang shouted homophobic insults at Mr Sepulveda, shoved him to the ground and kicked and beat him unconscious. He remains in a coma, fighting for his life—a sad reminder that Chile is not as safe and orderly a haven in an often violent continent as Chileans like to think. At least not for everyone.

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