March 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm EDT | by Nicolás Levy
Challenges persist 5 years after gay Chilean man’s murder

Chilean activists on March 2, 2017, held a memorial service in Santiago, Chile, in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man who was beaten to death in March 2012. His murder sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and nondiscrimination law that bears his name. (Photo courtesy of Óscar Rementería/Movilh)

Chilean activists on March 2, 2017, held a memorial service in Santiago, Chile, in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man who was beaten to death in March 2012. His murder sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and nondiscrimination law that bears his name. (Photo courtesy of Óscar Rementería/Movilh)

SANTIAGO, Chile — Daniel Zamudio, a young gay Chilean man, was tortured for several hours and seriously injured by a group of four self-described neo-Nazis who attacked him in a Santiago park on March 2, 2012, because of his sexual orientation. His death 25 days later sparked outrage across the country and Zamudio became a symbol against homophobic violence in the conservative nation.

The case accelerated the debate of an anti-discrimination and hate crimes bill that had languished in the Chilean Congress for more than seven years. Known as the Zamudio Law, this legal framework — which passed in July 2012 — created a mechanism for victims to denounce discriminatory acts based on a series of categories that include sexual orientation and gender identity and established a judicial process and sanctions.

Chileans’ attitudes towards LGBT people have also become more accepting since Zamudio’s death.

Wishing what happened to Zamudio will not happen to others, his parents created the Fundación Daniel Zamudio in his honor. His father, Iván Zamudio, has said the foundation’s objective is to share information about sexual diversity in schools, educate the public about the need for more inclusion and efforts against hate crimes.

“My son’s case (created a) before and after situation in Chile,” said Iván Zamudio. “There was a change in people’s minds towards greater respect for sexual diversity and as a consequence we have seen a fight to achieve norms that protect gay community.”

In the five years since Daniel Zamudio’s death, Chile has promoted initiatives to protect the rights of same-sex couples, including a civil unions law that took effect in October 2015. Chileans have also become more receptive to extending other legal protections to LGBT people.

Activists: Zamudio Law is ‘ineffective’

Despite the social and legal progress, members of LGBT advocacy organizations have criticized the efficiency of the anti-discrimination law. Some leaders have pointed out the current legislation is insufficient to prevent anti-LGBT crimes and its framework does not include the proper protections and compensation for victims.

Anti-LGBT violence in Chile also remains a serious problem.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a 2015 report noted 26 cases of violence perpetrated against LGBT and intersex people in the country between 2013 and 2014. Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh) claims 18 LGBT people have been killed in Chile since 2012.

The Inter-American Commission of Human Rights says its report underestimates the actual number of incidents because victims are reluctant to come forward because of they fear extortion, violations of their privacy and retaliation.

Movilh Director Rolando Jiménez has said the Zamudio Law is “poor,” considering only 13 of the 245 people who have filed complaints under it has received judgments in their favor.

“That demonstrates how ineffective the law is,” added Jiménez.

“Today, we have an instrument to react to a case, but there is a lack of institutionality working to educate people on sexual diversity and human rights matters,” Juan Enrique Pi, president of Fundación Iguales, told reporters last week in the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Pi said more efforts to prevent discrimination are necessary. Both he and Jiménez have argued the new Undersecretary of Human Rights, which President Michelle Bachelet’s administration recently created, should undertake this task.

The organizations have sent several proposals to Bachelet on how they feel her government can improve the Zamudio Law’s legal framework. They highlight, among other things, the creation of an anti-discrimination body and more guarantees to protect victims in the judicial process.

The current law imposes fines against applicants who do not provide evidence to prove their alleged abuses. Members of the Chilean LGBT movement contend this provision should be changed.

“The community is still being discriminated in workplaces and schools and it continues be target of attacks in the street,” warned Pi.

Bachelet in January announced proposed amendments to the current law, which she is sending to Congress in the coming months. The decision was made as a part the amicable mediation process between the government and Movilh, in the context of a same-sex marriage lawsuit the organization filed in 2012.

“When President Bachelet started her second administration, we delivered to her our proposal to make the law stronger,” said Jiménez. “We hope the discussion in Congress take place soon.”

Chilean activists on March 2, 2017, held a memorial service in Santiago, Chile, in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man who was beaten to death in March 2012. His murder sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and nondiscrimination law that bears his name. (Photo courtesy of Óscar Rementería/Movilh)

Chilean activists on March 2, 2017, held a memorial service in Santiago, Chile, in honor of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man who was beaten to death in March 2012. His murder sparked outrage across Chile and prompted lawmakers to pass an LGBT-inclusive hate crimes and nondiscrimination law that bears his name. (Photo courtesy of Óscar Rementería/Movilh)

Nicolás Levy is a Chilean journalist who specializes in LGBT human rights. He is a correspondent for the Washington Blade in Santiago, Chile.

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