LGBT rights in Chile

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LGBT rights in Chile
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1998,
age of consent not equalized
Gender identity/expression -
Military service No official prohibition
Discrimination protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil union bill awaiting signature from President
Adoption Single gay persons may adopt

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Chile may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is legal in Chile, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex married couples.

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Adult, consensual, non-commercial, same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Chile since 1998, but the liberalization of the criminal code created an unequal age of consent and did not modify vague public indecency laws, which have been used to harass LGBT people in Chile.

In Chile the current law against sodomy states that the age of consent for homosexuals is set at 18, whereas the age of consent for heterosexual sex is lower at 14.[1]

In July 2009 a new Penal Code was drafted and, if enacted, it would establish a universal age of consent, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, at 18.[2] As of February 2015, the drafted Penal Code is still on the table, but must pass the Chile Congress and a signature of the President for it to come into effect.[citation needed]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

In Chile, transgenderism is often associated with homosexuality. In the early part of the twenty-first century, the legal rights of transgender people in Chile has begun to improve.

A landmark case, brought in 2005 by Andrés Rivera, the founder of a NGO in Chile dedicated to fighting for trans people's rights, won the right for trans people to legally change their name and sex in 2007.[3]

Campaign demanding legal recognition of same-sex couples in Chile.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Michelle Bachelet the president of Chile, declared on 11 April 2013 that she supports marriage equality and will seek to legalise it if elected president in the November 2013 presidential elections. Bachelet, who was president of Chile between 2006 and 2010, won the election on 15 December 2013.[4]

When Bachelet took office in March 2014, she made passing Piñera's civil union bill a priority issue as well.[5] Legalising same-sex marriage remains a longer-term goal of Bachelet's administration.[6]

On 5 August 2014, a Senate committee approved the civil unions bill.[7] On 7 October 2014, the bill moved out of the Senate and is now scheduled for a final vote in the Chamber Of Deputies within the coming weeks.[8]

On 10 December 2014, a group of senators from various parties will joined MOVILH in presenting a bill to allow same-sex marriage and adoption to Congress. MOVILH has been in talks with the Chilean government to seek an amiable solution to the pending marriage lawsuit brought against the state before the Inter American Court of Human Rights. The group has suggested that they may drop the case if Bachelet's Congress keeps their promise to legislate same-sex marriage.[9]

The name of the bill was changed to Civil union pact (Pacto de Unión Civil) on December 17, and Congress reiterated their intention to hold the final vote by January 2015.[10] On 6 January 2015, a provision recognising foreign marriages as civil unions was approved in the Constitutional Committee while the child adoption clause was turned down. The bill will go to a final vote before both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies as it was amended.[11] On 13 January, the full Chamber of Deputies reinserted the adoption provision. On 20 January 2015, the Chamber approved the bill on a vote of 86 to 23 with 2 abstentions. On 27 January, the Senate rejected all the Chamber's amendments, so the bill was headed to the joint committee of both houses.[12] The committee reached the agreement in regard to the text of the bill and changed its name to Civil union agreement (Acuerdo de Unión Civil) the same day. The bill was passed in both houses on 28 January 2015, and is currently awaiting approval from the President.[13][14][15][16]

On 17 February 2015, lawyers representing the Government and the LGBT rights group MOVILH met to discuss an amicable solution to the same-sex marriage lawsuit before the Inter-American Commission Of Human Rights. The Government announced that they would drop their opposition to same-sex marriage. A formal agreement will be signed in April and the case will still continue according to MOVILH's lawyer who stated that the lawsuit will live on until Chile enacts the law.[17]

Public opinion[edit]

Public opinion has shown substantial support for same-sex civil unions: 65% favored their legalization in 2004, even though only 24% supported same-sex marriage.[18] In 2009, 33.2% supported same-sex marriage and 26.5% supported adoption by same-sex couples.[19] Support among young people is much higher: according to a study by the National Youth Institute of Chile, 56% of young respondents supported same-sex marriage, while 51.3% supported same-sex adoption.[20] An August 2012 poll found that 54.9% of Chileans support same-sex marriage, while 40.7% are opposed.[21] A more recent poll showed that 70% of youths support same-sex marriage. [22]

Discrimination protections[edit]

A law published in July 2012 provides protection against acts of "arbitrary discrimination" based on "sexual orientation".[23] LGBT and minority groups are working to add the words “sexual orientation” and “gender” in Chile’s Constitution to the civil rights and protection clause.[24] Details of a new draft of the law were made public at the Forum on Same-Sex Civil Unions in Chile , held at the Diego Portales University, in May 2008. [25]

Activists believe that conservative attitudes are changing, finding greater public tolerance as Chile's Congress debates striking "offenses to morals and good customs" clauses "that police have used to harass gays, even for behavior such as holding hands in public".[26]

Living conditions[edit]

Pride parade in front of Palace of La Moneda, in Santiago in 2009.

In Chile, the Catholic Church and traditional beliefs regarding gender roles do play a combined role in prevailing attitudes about sex roles, sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBT-rights began to be publicly discussed as Chile went through a larger process of democratization, with an expanded interest in human rights and dignity.

While LGBT people live throughout Chile, the visible LGBT community is largely restricted to Santiago in the bohemian, socially liberal, neighborhood Bellavista, home to a thriving restaurant and club scene. A public parade for LGBT-rights is held every year in downtown Santiago.[27]

While rare, efforts by LGBT people in Chile to organize for their rights outside of Santiago are gaining more publicity. The Chilean magazine, Opus Gay, has ventured far south, reporting on a recent lesbian march for equal rights in Concepcion,[28] and on to the Straits of Magellan to report on the gay discothèque scene in Punta Arenas.[29]

In the early part of the twenty-first century, greater publicity has been generated about LGBT people in Chile and the discrimination and harassment that they face. Some of the more notable examples of this include the following;

2004 removal of bisexual judge[edit]

In January 2004, the Chilean Supreme Court removed married[30] judge Daniel Calvo from his position on the Santiago Court of Appeals, after media reports that he visited a sauna frequented by gay men. The story broke following the arrest of a Chilevisión TV editor for illegally taping, and then broadcasting, a conversation in the judge's chambers. Judge Calvo, investigating the case of an accused businessman running a child pornography ring, was taped in his office in a discussion with the owner of a gay sauna, in which he acknowledged being a former client.[31] [32]

2004 removal of custody rights from lesbian former judge[edit]

In 2004, the Chilean Supreme Court confirmed a lower court's decision that stripped former judge Karen Atala of custody of her three daughters because she is a lesbian. The case was taken up by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.[33] In March 2012, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Atala.[34]

2010 maricón PSA[edit]

In 2010, the Chilean government launched a public service announcement which referred to spousal or domestic abusers as maricón, which sparked outrage from LGBT rights advocates at home and abroad. and Chilean LGBT group Soy Hombre Soy Mujer co-sponsored a November 2010 petition against the campaign, while El Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh) supported the campaign.[35]

The key of the campaign was based in the polysemy of the word maricón, which in Chile means gay, treacherous, abuser, and unfair. In one of the spots, the well known gay photographer Jordi Castell says "Maricón es el que le pega a una mujer", i.e. "maricón is the one who abuses a woman (and not a gay man)". In another spot, football referee Pablo Pozo says the same sentence, which in this case means "maricón is the one who abuses a woman (and not a supposedly unfair referee)".[36] This campaign earned a Golden Effie Award.[36]

2012 murder[edit]

In March 2012, a young gay man named Daniel Zamudio was brutally beaten by a Neo-Nazi band.[37] He died on March 27.[38]

Movilh, a Chilean NGO that fights for the rights of LGBT citizens in Chile, said that from 2002 to 2012, there were 837 reported cases of brutality involving homophobia and transphobia. Seventeen of these cases were homicides, and in the past year alone three transsexual individuals were murdered; one of them had her face disfigured with a blowtorch.[39]

Because of the large number of hate crimes, the government passed an anti-discrimination law in April 2012.[40]

Military Service[edit]

The Military of Chile does not discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation. Chile bans all anti-gay discrimination since 2012.[41]

On August 13th, 2014, The Defense Ministry ordered the creation of a new committee to monitor inclusion and tackle discrimination in the armed forces this week, a move hailed as a “historic” step by gay rights campaigners. Marcos Robledo, defense undersecretary, announced the formation of a Diversity and Anti-Discrimination Committee with the aim to eradicate arbitrary discrimination in the military. The resolution, signed by Defense Minister Jorge Burgos, established the government as responsible for creating a more inclusive armed services.[42]

Few days later, a sailor in Chile became the first serving member of the Chilean armed forces to announce he is gay.[43] Mauricio Ruiz, 24, told a televised news conference his decision had "not been easy", but he wanted to help fight discrimination against homosexuals. Mr Ruiz said that what was most important was not a soldier's sexual orientation, but his or her willingness to serve the country. His announcement came with the full backing of the Chilean armed. Mauricio Ruiz said homosexuals had "no reason to hide". "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.

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1998)
Equal age of consent No (bill pending)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (since 2012)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (since 2012)
Anti-discrimination laws in other areas Yes (since 2012)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil union) Yes (since 2015)
Same-sex marriage No (bill pending)
Both joint and step adoption by same-sex couples No (bill pending)
Immigration rights for same-sex couples Yes (since 2015)
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to artificial insemination/IVF for lesbian couples Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (since 2012)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Eighteen years on – the gay rights movement in Chile - Santiago Magazine". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "ILGA" (PDF). Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Grew, Tony (5 March 2008). "Iranian and Chilean LGBT activists honoured,, March 5, 2008". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "Bachelet quiere legalizar aborto y matrimonio igualitario en Chile". Retrieved 2013-12-02. 
  5. ^ "Government announces priority for same-sex civil unions and tax reform". Santiago Times. March 17, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Ministro Gómez abre discusión sobre matrimonio homosexual". 24horas. 2014-03-20. Retrieved 2014-03-30. 
  7. ^ "Chilean Senate committee approves civil unions bill". Washington Blade. 5 August 2014. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ "El proyecto de ley de matrimonio igualitario llega al Parlamento de Chile". Cáscara Amarga. 2014-12-11. Retrieved 2014-12-11. 
  10. ^ "Otorgan suma urgencia al AVP y le cambian el nombre por Pacto de Unión Civil (PUC)". MOVILH. 2014-12-17. Retrieved 2014-12-18. 
  11. ^ Comisión de Constitución de la Cámara despacha el Pacto de Unión Civil limitando los derechos de hijos e hijas
  12. ^ (Spanish) Pacto de Unión Civil: Senado rechaza texto aprobado por la Cámara para zanjar disensos en comisión mixta
  13. ^ (Spanish) Comisión mixta concluye revisión de proyecto de Unión Civil: Mañana se vota en la Cámara y el Senado
  14. ^ Esposito, Anthony. "Socially-conservative Chile approves civil unions". Reuters. Retrieved 28 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "Chile President Sebastian Pinera proposes civil unions". BBC News. 
  16. ^ Chile expected to legalize gay marriage (Gay Star News - March 12 2014)
  17. ^ Chilean government to end opposition to same-sex marriage (Washington Blade - February 18 2015)
  18. ^ OpusGay (2004). "Encuesta refleja amplia aceptación a derechos de homosexuales en Chile" (in Spanish). Retrieved 16 March 2009. 
  19. ^ Ipsos (April 2009). "Estudio de opinión pública". Retrieved 16 March 2009. [dead link] (Spanish)
  20. ^ "Unión civil para gays y lesbianas anima debate electoral". 25 June 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  21. ^ "Gran avance: 54.9 por ciento apoya en Chile el matrimonio igualitario". MOVILH. 2012-08-29. 
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ "DIVAS DON’T DISCRIMINATE". Valparaiso Times. Sep 3, 2007. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  25. ^ "CHILE: Law on Civil Union for Gays Within Reach". IPS. 17 May 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  26. ^ - Conservative Chile More Tolerant of Gays,, July 2006
  27. ^ - GAY PRIDE PARADE IN DOWNTOWN SANTIAGO, Santiago Times, October 2007[dead link]
  28. ^ - LESBIANAS MARCHAN EN CONCEPCION, Opus Gay, Nov. 2008(Spanish)
  30. ^ "Juez Calvo declaró por tres horas ante Comisión de Ética". Emol (in Spanish). 26 November 2003. Daniel Calvo fue acompañado por su esposa Mónica Olivares  (Daniel Calvo went in company of his wife Mónica Olivares).
  31. ^ "Chile - Annual Report 2004, Reporters Without Borders". Retrieved 19 January 2011. 
  32. ^ - Judge scandal is step back for homosexuals in Chile, Reuters, Nov. 2003
  33. ^ - Ruling in Chile forces gay parents to choose between the closet, parenting rights, from Knight-Ridder, July 2004
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Movilh aprueba campaña lanzada por el Sernam en contra del maltrato a la mujer". Emol. 28 October 2010. 
  36. ^ a b "La Campaña Maricón de Sernam ganó el Effie de Oro". SoyCopiapó. 11 November 2011. 
  37. ^,4543eb8afcf46310VgnVCM10000098f154d0RCRD.html
  38. ^,06f6afe955656310VgnVCM5000009ccceb0aRCRD.html
  39. ^
  40. ^ Chile Passes Anti-Discrimination Law Following Daniel Zamudio's Death
  41. ^ "Chile Congress passes anti-discrimination law". Retrieved 2013-05-04. 
  42. ^ "Gay rights group lauds efforts to make Chilean military more inclusive". 
  43. ^ "Chilean sailor makes history after announcing he is gay". 

External links[edit]