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Chile: Update to CHL39413.E of 6 August 2002 on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lifestyle and the treatment of LGBT individuals in Santiago and in Concepcion; state protection available to LGBT victims of human rights violations (January 2003 - June 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 22 June 2005
Citation / Document Symbol CHL100188.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Chile: Update to CHL39413.E of 6 August 2002 on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lifestyle and the treatment of LGBT individuals in Santiago and in Concepcion; state protection available to LGBT victims of human rights violations (January 2003 - June 2005), 22 June 2005, CHL100188.E, available at: [accessed 1 December 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

International gay tourism Websites variously described Chile's gay and lesbian lifestyle as being better than what it was in the mid-90s (Gay Journey 2004; CHIP n.d.a.), yet also noted "gay life in Chile remains largely underground and discreet" (OutUK n.d.; see also CHIP n.d.b). Moreover, various news and travel information sources reported that homosexuality is still regarded as a "taboo" (CHIP n.d.b) subject in this predominantly "conservative" and Catholic society (Knight Ridder 1 July 2004; Gay Journey 2004; OutUK n.d.). In addition, Human Rights Watch reported in June 2004 that "prejudice against gays and lesbians is still rife" (2 June 2004). According to the United Kingdom-based Website for gay men OutUK:

As is the case in many parts of South America, there's tremendous pressure on gay men, and even more on lesbians, to remain in the closet. In Chile, home-life centers heavily on the family, and social mores depend heavily on the traditions and teachings of the conservative Catholic Church (n.d.).

Nevertheless, various sources have reported that attitudes towards homosexuals have become "increasingly tolerant" (CHIP n.d.b) in recent years (Gay Journey 2004; Reuters 14 Nov. 2003). According to a November 2003 Reuters article, University of Chile public opinion polls have shown that Chileans are becoming more "accepting of homosexuality" (14 Nov. 2003; see also Reding Dec. 2003). In Santiago, for example, various gay travel information Websites have noted that the gay bar and nightclub scene has significantly improved in recent years and that Sanitago boasts a number of bars, discotheques, and saunas catering to a homosexual clientele (Pink Agenda Jan. 2005; Knight Ridder 1 July 2004; Gay Journey 2004; CHIP n.d.a).

Information on gay lifestyle outside of Santiago was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the OutUK Website "[o]utside the capital, gay nightlife is limited. There are a couple bars in the cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, but they're hard to find" (n.d.).


In its 2003 and 2004 annual human rights reports on homosexuals in Chile, the Santiago-based gay rights NGO Movement for Integration and Liberation of Homosexuals (Movimiento de Integracion y Liberacion Homosexual, MOVILH) reported that certain government institutions continued to discriminate against gays and lesbians (Adital 10 Mar. 2005; ILGA 2 Feb. 2005; Radio Cooperativa 31 Jan. 2005). Notably, in both the 2003 and 2004 rankings by MOVILH of the most homophobic public entities, the Supreme Court was listed as number one (ibid.; Adital 2 Feb. 2005). In 2003, the Supreme Court removed a judge from a case involving a pedophile "after a television station exposed his visits to a gay bathhouse" (Reuters 14 Nov. 2003; see also Opusgay 30 Dec. 2003). While court officials claimed that they removed the judge because he would be "vulnerable to extortion attempts," critics saw the decision as a "setback for homosexuals" (Reuters 14 Nov. 2003). In 2004, the Supreme Court denied a lesbian mother-who also happened to be a judge-custody of her two daughters "on the basis of her sexual orientation" (HRW 2 June 2004; see also EFE 3 June 2004). Instead, the court awarded custody to the girls' father, stating that the lesbian mother and her partner could negatively effect the children's "emotional and sexual development" (HRW 2 June 2004).

In addition, two reported cases of discrimination within the educational system in 2004 highlighted the "intense moral debate about homosexuality in Chile" (Santiago Times 13 May 2005; see also ILGA 2 Feb. 2005). In the first case, "two boys from Santiago's Liceo Metropolitano" were expelled for "'immoral acts'," while "a girl from Santiago's Centro Politecnico San Ramon" was forced to leave for "'openly lesbian conduct'" (Santiago Times 13 May 2005).

MOVILH's 2004 human rights report noted a 30 per cent decrease in homophobic incidents in comparison to 2003; however, the NGO claimed that there was an increase in the "fierceness and brutality" (fiereza y brutalidad) of the reported human rights violations against sexual minorities (ILGA 2 Feb. 2005; Adital 2 Feb. 2005). Cases in point were the alleged homophobic murders of two transvestites in July and November 2004, where no such murders were reported in 2003 (MOVILH 2004, 17).

With regard to treatment by the police, human rights sources reported that despite the abolishment in December 1998 of legislation that prohibited homosexual sex, incidents of harassment and detention of homosexual men by the "country's uniformed police force, known as the Carabineros" continued into 2003 (Reding Dec. 2003; see also Opusgay 13 Jan. 2004). In March 2003, for example, between 16 (ibid.) and 22 (Reding Dec. 2003) homosexuals were arrested by Carabineros at a gay discotheque in the northern city of Calama. In Santiago, according to the MOVILH 2004 human rights report, the first, fifth, and 47th metropolitan Carabinero Commissariats (Comisarias) were ranked the eighth most homophobic public agencies in the country (Radio Cooperativa 31 Jan. 2005; Adital 10 Mar. 2005). Moreover, MOVILH reported that Carabineros in Santiago had detained five homosexuals in 2002 and four in 2003 because of their sexual orientation (Opusgay 13 Jan. 2004).

However, of the 46 homophobic cases registered by MOVILH in 2004, only one was related to police aggression (agresion policial) (Adital 10 Mar. 2005; ILGA 2 Feb. 2005). In addition, MOVILH reported that in 2004, "for the first time" (por primera vez) in the history of the gay and lesbian movement, the Carabineros had not arrested any individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation (ibid.).

State protection efforts

While information about state protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims of human rights violations was scarce among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, the following provides a brief chronology of efforts by authorities to address this concern.

In April 2003, Santiago-based gay news source Opusgay reported on state efforts to address the strained relations between the police and the homosexual community (14 Apr. 2003). In particular, in an unprecedented meeting between the Minister of Defence, Michelle Bachelet, who is also the head of the Carabineros, and MOVILH president Rolando Jimenez, the minister agreed that the police should improve their interactions with homosexuals (Opusgay 14 Apr. 2003). To this end, the minister and MOVILH agreed that Carabineros' deputy secretary (subsecretario) Felipe Harboe would serve as "intermediary to solve or prevent potential conflicts between homosexual persons and the police" (como intermediario para solucionar o prevenir potenciales conflictos entre las personas homosexuals y la policia) (ibid.).

In May 2004, upon receiving threats from a neo-Nazi organization "Our Voice" (Nuestro Voz) in the lead up to an anti-homosexual march, MOVILH president Jimenez petitioned a Santiago court (Opusgay 10 May 2004) and was subsequently granted police protection (ibid. 14 May 2004).

In May 2005, the gay and lesbian community celebrated the government's approval of a legislative project that would seek to condemn homophobia as a crime (Adital 23 May 2005; ILGA 3 May 2005). In what the MOVILH called a triumph for the Chilean homosexual movement (ibid.), 85 per cent of lawmakers within the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of the Project of Agreement on Homophobic Crimes (Proyecto de Acuerdo sobre Delito por Homofobia) (ibid.; Adital 23 May 2005). Key elements within the legislative project include petitioning the courts to better identify and investigate potential cases of homophobic crimes, asking the Executive Branch (Poder Ejecutivo) to support the laying of charges related to homophobic crimes, and requesting that Carabineros and civil police actively prevent and pursue crimes committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation (ibid.; ILGA 3 May 2005).

Generally, while the Carabineros have been described as "one of Latin America's best law enforcement institutions with a history of popular support and respect" (Freedom House 14 Sept. 2004), national human rights organizations such as the Corporation for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights of the People (Corporacion de Promocion y Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo, CODEPU) reportedly "still received isolated reports of abuse and mistreatment by the Carabineros," and other state security personnel in 2004 (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec 1.c). Moreover, Country Reports 2004 mentioned that CODEPU was reportedly "unaware of any case" where a police officer was convicted of misconduct (ibid.). According to Country Reports 2004, investigations into police abuse rarely took place because judges were unwilling to "pursue the issue vigorously" (ibid.).

However, Human Rights Watch noted in its World Report 2005 that "[t]he introduction of the new Code of Criminal Procedure in all parts of Chile except the capital has helped reduce complaints of torture and mistreatment by the uniformed police (Carabineros)." (13 Jan. 2005).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agencia de Informacion Fray Tito para America Latina (Adital) [Fortaleza, Brazil]. 23 May 2005. "Proyecto contra homofobia." [Accessed 16 June 2005]
_____. 10 March 2005. "Homofobia disminuyo pero los casos son mas graves." [16 June 2005]
_____. 2 February 2005. "La Corte Suprema es la institucion mas homofobica de Chile." [Accessed 16 June 2005]

Chilean Information Project (CHIP). N.d.a. "Gay and Lesbian Bars and Nightclubs." [Accessed 16 June 2005]
_____. N.d.b. "Treatment of Gays and Lesbians." [16 June 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 20 June 2005]

EFE. 3 June 2004. "Chileans Protest Decision that Took Daughters from Lesbian Judge." (Dialog)

Freedom House. 14 September 2004. "Chile." Freedom in the World 2004. [Accessed 20 June 2005]

Gay Journey. 2004. Richard Sanfilippo. "A Gay Visitor's Guide to Santiago, Chile." [Accessed 16 June 2005]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 13 January 2005. World Report 2005. "Chile." [15 June 2005]
_____. 2 June 2004. "Chile: High Court Discriminates Against Lesbian Mother." [Accessed 15 June 2005]

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 3 May 2005. "Triunfo del movimiento homosexual Chileno: Camara de diputados chilena aprobo historico proyecto que condena los delitos por homofobia." [Accessed 15 June 2005]
_____. 2 February 2005. "III Informe Anual de los DDHH de los LGBT en Chile." [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Knight Ridder [Washington]. 1 July 2004. Kevin G. Hall. "Ruling in Chile Forces Gay Parents to Choose Between the Closet, Parenting Rights." (Global Gayz Website) [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Movimiento de Integracion y Liberacion Homosexual (MOVILH). 2004. III Informe Anual Sobre Derechos Humanos de las Minorias Sexuales Chilenas: 2004. [Accessed 17 June 2005]

Opusgay [Santiago de Chile]. 14 May 2004. "Proteccion policial para el Movilh." [Accessed 15 June 2005]
_____. 10 May 2004. "Presentan recurso de proteccion contra Neonazis." [15 June 2005]
_____. 13 January 2004. "Demandan a policia Chilena terminar con detencion de homosexuales." [15 June 2005]
_____. 30 December 2003. "En un 37 por ciento aumentaron las denuncias por homofobia en Chile durante el 2003." [Accessed 15 June 2005]
_____. 14 April 2003. Catalina Herrera. "Ministra de Defensa pedira a Carabineros informe sobre denuncias del movimiento homosexual." [Accessed 15 June 2005]

OutUK. N.d. "Outgoing – South America: Rio, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador." (Google cache) [Accessed 16 June 2005]

Pink Agenda. January 2005. Carlos T. Mock, MD, and William R. Rattan. "Gay in Santiago, Chile." [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Radio Cooperativa [Santiago de Chile]. 31 January 2005. "Movilh afirmo que el Poder Judicial 'legalizo' la homofobia en Chile." [16 June 2005]

Reding, Andrew. December 2003. "Chile." Sexual Orientation and Human Rights in the Americas. New York: World Policy Institute. [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Reuters. 14 November 2003. Fiona Ortiz. "Judge Scandal is Step Back for Homosexuals in Chile." (Global Gayz Website) [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Santiago Times. 13 May 2005. Emily Byrne. "Chile's Supreme Court Accused of Infringing Human Rights." [Accessed 15 June 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet: Amnesty International, Centro de Estudios de Justicia de las Americas (CEJA), Comision Andina de Juristas, Derecho Human Rights – Equipo Nizkor, Gay Times [London], Gobierno de Chile – Comision Defensoria Ciudadana, The Gully [New York], International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Movimiento Unificado de Minorias Sexuales (MUMS) Chile, Punto Gay Chile, Resource Center of the Americas, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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