Chile: Activists Launch Campaign to Repeal Sodomy Law

Gay activists in Chile have launched a massive campaign aimed at convincing the Chilean Parliament to repeal Article 365 of the Penal Code. Article 365 makes consensual, homosexual relations between adults illegal. Letters are needed urging Chilean parliamentarians to bring Chile into the international norm and decriminalize same sex relations.

Currently, Chile is one of three Latin American countries which prohibits sexual relations between persons of the same gender. The Chilean sodomy law punishes violators with 541 days to three years in prison. Though rarely enforced as such, the law forms the crucial justification for most of the official and extra-official harassment of lesbians, gays and transvestites.

Indeed, IGLHRC continues to receive reports of incidents of both uniformed and off duty police subjecting gay men and transvestites in Santiago to bar raids that often end with unlawful detentions, as well as verbal and physical abuse.

The group spearheading the campaign against Article 365, MOVILH (Movimiento de Liberación Homosexual), has launched a multi-tiered campaign that is expected to last through the year. Activists are concentrating on lobbying congress, liaisoning with other human rights organizations, launching public education campaigns and holding a series of seminars and workshops on the issue. Already the campaign has generated large amounts of press attention within Chile.

The Commission on the Constitution, Legislation and Justice of the Chamber of Deputies announced on 10 May 1995 its intention to move ahead with the abolition of Article 365. However, that announcement was accompanied by news of their intention to replace Article 365 with a law penalizing public expressions of homosexuality. IGLHRC believes the proposed changes would be discriminatory and calls for the complete decriminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults as well as the decriminalization of homosexual social and cultural expression.

Any laws approved by the Chamber of Deputies will have to also be approved by the Chilean Senate. The entire legislative process could take as long as a year. MOVILH intends to keep IGLHRC informed of the progress of the campaign.

Presently, letters should be sent to the Chamber of Deputies and request the following:

  1. That copies of your letter be distributed to the heads of all the political parties represented in the Chilean Congress.
  2. Increasingly national governments as well as inter-governmental organizations are making clear that criminalizing same sex relations between consenting adults is not a legitimate use of state force. Most recently, the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the Australian state of Tasmania's laws against private, consenting, adult homosexual acts breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Chile is a signatory to that Covenant and should move to bring itself into compliance.
  3. Sodomy laws make possible precisely that sort of official harassment of lesbians and gays that groups in Chile are currently reporting. That incidents of this nature would escalate during the national debate over the future of Article 365 indicate the necessity of moving decisively and quickly to completely decriminalize same sex relationships. Replacing Article 365 with restrictions of public expression or freedom of assembly are not acceptable.

Write to:

Jaime Estévez V.
Cámara de Diputados
Senado de la República de Chile
Avda. Pedro Montt s/n
fax: +56-32-697-0022