State-sponsored Homophobia is alive and well in Latin America / La Homofobia de Estado aún vive en América Latina

La Homofobia de Estado aún vive en América Latina

Daniel Zamudio murió el 27 de marzo de 2012 a los 24 años, después de haber pasado más de tres semanas en coma inducido en el Hospital Posta Central de Santiago de Chile. Fue brutalmente golpeado: tenía las piernas rotas, una oreja parcialmente cortada y sangrientas esvásticas en pecho y espalda. Ocho días después el Congreso Nacional de Chile sancionó una ley anti-discriminación, siete años después de que se propusiera.

A continuación, en la página web de Análisis Latino, aquí.

State-sponsored Homophobia is alive and well in Latin America

Daniel Zamudio died March 27, 2012, having spent more than three weeks in an induced coma in Santiago’s Hospital Posta Central. He was brutally beaten: his legs broken, an ear partially cut off, bloody swastikas carved into his chest and back. He was 24 years old, and gay.

Eight days later the National Congress of Chile passed an anti-discrimination law, seven years after it had been proposed.

This is just one of the cases highlighted by the International Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex (ILGA) in its sixth State-Sponsored Homophobia report, released this month. This report is not a ranking, rather a summary of the legal framework in place in every country worldwide, to facilitate the work of human rights activists in the LGBTI community (lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans and intersex). Nevertheless, one gains an idea of how countries compare to one another, and Africa and Asia are very much behind in this respect. In fact, in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Sudan and some parts of Nigeria and Somalia homosexual acts are punishable by death.

Even if homosexuality is not illegal in Latin America, and even if some countries of the region have taken grand steps in this area – the recently passed Law of Gender Identity in Argentina is cited as a model for future legislation – there is still work to be done.

The legislative panorama is in one aspect promising: homosexual acts are legal – or at least not illegal – in the entire Latin American region (the Caribbean shows a completely opposed and very worrying tendency).

Nevertheless, “[t]he absence of criminalization does not demonstrate the absence of risk of persecution and/or sufficiency of state protection. It may be that open persecution is a thing of the past, but we have still not achieved the equal recognition of rights of the LGBTI community. A first step would be the passing of laws that explicitly prohibit discrimination and ensure the free exercise of the rights of all citizens.

Region-wide, constitutional prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation exists only in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador and some parts of Argentina. Laws prohibiting discrimination in the work-place based on sexual orientation have been passed only in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, ten states of Mexico and the city of Rosario in Argentina, unique in that it also prohibits discrimination in the work-place based on gender identity.

Only four and a bit countries prohibit excitation to hate for reasons of sexual orientation: Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and some parts of Mexico.

And marriage? Members of the LGBTI community may only marry in Argentina and Mexico City, although in Brazil, Colombia and the state of Coahuila in Mexico civil unions are recognized. In Uruguay and Ecuador LGBTI couples are offered some of the rights enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.

The lack of state recognition of the relationships of LGBTI citizens – the failure to assign them the same value and the same rights of heterosexual couples – helps maintain the stigma around such relationships, creating a society that shows high levels of homophobia.

ILGA identifies several important steps towards the creation of more tolerant and inclusive societies. Governments need to leave the apathy to one side: Brazil doesn’t even maintain a statistical tally of homophobic crimes, as it does it in case of, for example, theft. More civil participation is needed, especially in the development of national programs that seek to eradicate stigma and discrimination via education. The continued separation of church and state is crucial and, as we have seen, the legislative framework must be improved, especially the definition of hate crimes.

A law that criminalizes homophobia in Brazil has been bogged down in the National Congress for more than ten years. Lets hope another Daniel Zamudio doesn’t have to suffer in order for the necessary legal advances towards citizen equality are taken.

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2 responses to “State-sponsored Homophobia is alive and well in Latin America / La Homofobia de Estado aún vive en América Latina

  1. This post makes me so sad and angry. Thanks for sharing – I hadn’t heard of the case until reading about it here. The world still has a long way to go when it comes to tolerance and respect.

    • Camden Luxford

      Hi Tom. Thanks for reading, and for tweeting the story. It makes me sad and angry too: I find intolerance to be rather incomprehensible, really. Where does this hate come from? Finger’s crossed some movement happens on these laws.

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