Chile: Student Expelled For Lesbian Behavior

SUMMARY

On September 16, 2002, Mayra Espinoza, a high school student in Viña del Mar, Chile, was expelled from school for kissing a female classmate while parting at the school's door. After engaging in difficult negotiations that involved the Ministry of Education, the school issued Ms. Espinoza an early graduation certificate (the school term in Chile ends in December), effectively preventing her from returning to classes. Chilean lesbian and gay organizations protest the discriminatory treatment of Ms. Espinoza and condemn the 'solution'-- isolating a young lesbian, as if she were suffering from a 'contagious disease'--offered by the authorities.

FORWARDED ACTION

Lesbian and gay organizations in Chile ask for email letters to the following authorities:

Minister of Education Mariana Aylwin:
gobiernodechile@segegob.cl
President of the Republic: Ricardo Lagos:
presidencia@segegob.cl
Ministerial Secretary of Education V Region: Pablo Mecklenburg:
seremi05@segegob.cl
Government Program for Tolerance and Nondiscrimination Mrs. Alejandra Diaz:
tolerancia@segegob.cl

Please send copies to:

University Sexual Diversity Coordinator
cuds@lesbianas.cl and coordinadoragaylesbica@hotmail.com
Unified Movement of Sexual Minorities MUMS
mums@manquehue.net

You will find below a copy of the letter in Spanish and an English translation. We suggest that you send the letter in Spanish.

SAMPLE LETTER

Subject: Solidaridad con Mayra Espinoza

Señora
Ministra de Educación
Mariana Aylwin
Presente

Nos dirigimos a Ud. con el objeto de representar nuestra preocupación respecto a los hechos recientemente ocurridos en la quinta región, en que una adolescente primero fue expulsada del Liceo José Francisco Vergara de Gómez de la quinta región por "atentar contra la moral del liceo" y "comportarse como lesbiana" al haber besado en público a una compañera

Es sorprendente que Chile, siendo un país que se muestra hacia el exterior, como un ejemplo en el manejo de los índices macroeconómicos, permita este tipo de discriminación en sus establecimientos eduacionales. Dicha discriminación se manifiesta no sólo en la voluntad de expulsarla por parte de las autoridades de su liceo, sino también en la solución que adopta la autoridad ministerial, que puso término prematuro a sus estudios, otorgándole su licencia secundaria, con el objetivo de evitar la presencia de una chica lesbiana en el colegio.

Manifestamos nuestro rechazo ante el acto de discriminación de que fue objeto la alumna Mayra Espinoza, porque este tipo de conductas discriminadoras son aberrantes

Manifestamos además nuestra preocupación porque en Chile discriminar es un acto permitido que atenta contra los principios y derechos fundamentales proclamados en la Declaración Universal de Derechos Humanos y los Pactos Internacionales que Chile ha suscrito.

Solicitamos a Ud. respetuosamente considerar en el futuro medidas de prevención a las actitudes y conductas discriminatorias, con el objeto que los y las jóvenes de su país puedan desenvolverse en un clima tolerante y no discriminador.

Atentamente,


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

We are writing to you to express our concern due to the facts that recently have taken place in Region Fifth. A teenager was expelled from Liceo Jose Francisco Vergara de Gomez for "attacking the school's morals" and "behaving like a lesbian", after kissing a female classmate in public.

It is surprising that Chile, a country that portrays itself as a model in terms of macroeconomic indexes to the rest of the world, allows such discriminatory acts to happen in its educational institutions. The decision to expel the student from school, taken by the Liceo authorities, was as discriminatory as the solution later adopted by the Ministry, which, in order to avoid the presence of a lesbian girl at school, decided to issue her a graduation certificate before the school year has come to an end.

We condemn the treatment endured by student Mayra Espinoza, because we consider such discriminatory behavior abhorrent.

We would like also to express our concern because discrimination is not forbidden by law in Chile, regardless what the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and international Covenants ratified by Chile affirm.

We would like you to kindly consider preventive measures that can be adopted in the future to avoid discriminatory attitudes and behaviors, to allow all young people in your country to grow in a tolerant, non-discriminatory environment.

Sincerely,

(Name, organization, address)

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

On September 16, 2002, student Mayra Espinoza was notified by the authorities of Liceo Juan Francisco Vergara, a high school in Viña del Mar, Chile, that she could not continue attending school because she had kissed a female classmate while parting at the school door on September 15.

The situation came into public notice after the local Minister of Education, Juan Pablo Mecklenburg, ordered an investigation to clarify the reasons why the school authorities had expelled Ms. Mayra Espinoza on the basis of her "lesbian behavior".

MP Laura Soto told local media that it was "a clearly discriminatory behavior, a brutal attack to equality and the right to education." She then added, "This is damaging the progress that our country has made, it is very serious, and it's like going backwards in terms of human rights under democracy."

Mayra Espinoza was notified on Monday, September16 that she could not keep attending school because her presence would "stir up the henhouse" (revolver el gallinero). "I went anyways, but the threw me out," said Mayra.

"I will not deny being a tomboy: because I have nine male brothers, I grew up among them and nobody will mess with me. I have a strong personality", commented Mayra when referring the facts that lead to the accusations against her.

"What happened was that I went out of school that day and a friend of mine was waiting for me. Like always, kids leave rushing out and shoving one another. Just when I was about to embrace my friend to say hello, they (her classmates) shoved me against her and I happened to crush my lips onto hers. The husbands of the school vice-principal, Ms. Nancy Espinoza, saw it. He mentioned it to his wife and that caused all this damage, when I have only two months left to graduate from high school".

Ms. Espinoza said that the authorities called her and said she had to leave because something very disgusting had happened and "to protect the school's morals, because of my lesbian behavior. I have no precedents [of such behavior]. I was already out of school, but they can not prove anything about me".

She did not want to enroll in another school, because she had been at the Liceo for the last three years. "It is only fair that I graduate with my classmates".

Ms. Espinoza's school records are irreproachable. Last year she won a "best student" award and until last week she was vice-president of the Students Association. She never had her behavior questioned before.

In spite of public uproar against the measure adopted by the Liceo's principal, he insisted before the government authorities to have Ms. Espinoza transferred to another school in the same area.

Later on, (federal) government authorities met with the local government and with the school principal and decided to issue a premature graduation certificate to Ms. Espinoza, in order to avoid her presence at school, and closed the case.

Chilean lesbian and gay organizations protest the measures adopted by the authorities and have decided to denounce the situation before the national and international communities.

You can find more information on this case at:

http://www.rompiendoelsilencio.cl

http://www.lesbianas.cl/coordinadora
http://www.trabajoyestudioslesbicos.cl
http://www.radionumerocritico.cl
http://www.lesbianas.cl
http://www.orgullogay.cl