Chile passes anti-discrimination law after brutal hate crime

SANTIAGO (AFP) – Chile enacted an anti-discrimination law on Thursday, fully seven years after it went before Parliament, amid horror after suspected neo-Nazis killed a young gay man.

The bill condemns discrimination based on gender, race and religion, among other factors. It was presented to parliament in 2005 but not approved until May 2012, after the initiative was stalled by conservative legislators.

It introduces the concept of ‘arbitrary discrimination’ into the Chilean legal system and punishes violators with fines ranging from US$400 (S$508) to $4,000.

Some on the Chilean right feared the law might lead to the legalisation of gay marriage and held up the bill’s progression. The political logjam only broke after the killing of 24-year-old Daniel Zamudio on March 27.

The new law has been dubbed the ‘Zamudio Law.’ Pictures released by Zamudio’s family showed how the attackers inflicted a head wound, burned him with cigarettes, and carved Nazi symbols and slogans on his body. Zamudio spent three weeks in hospital before dying.

Chile’s political left ruled the country at the end of roughly two decades of dictatorship, until 2010, when right-wing President Sebastian Pinera was elected to office.

‘Thanks to Daniel’s sacrifice, now we have a new law I’m sure will help us confront, prevent and punish acts of discrimination, which cause so much pain,’ Mr Pinera said, as his enacted the new law at the presidential palace.

Zamudio’s parents attended the ceremony.

‘I am very proud that the law was passed and that it is named for Daniel,’ said Daniel’s mother, Jacqueline Vera. ‘My son will never be forgotten.’

Representatives of Chile’s Jewish, Arab, indigenous and disabled communities were also present at the ceremony.

The law defines ‘arbitrary discrimination’ as ‘any distinction, exclusion or restriction made without reasonable justification by state employees or private individuals that would deprive, disrupt or threaten fundamental rights.’

Chilean gay rights group The Homosexual Liberation Movement reports that 17 people have died and some 800 have been assaulted in crimes against Chile’s gay community since 2002. –  20Jul, 2012

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