On Saturday (23 June), the 12th pride parade called March for Equality took place in Santiago with over 80,000 people demanding further advancement of LGBT rights in Chile.
Marcha por la Igualidad or March for Equality took place on a sunny winter day in Santiago, with attendees demanding equality before the law.
The march was also attended by prominent politicians as well as by the British ambassador Jon Benjamin, who read a letter of support for pride and LGBT rights on behalf of the European Union.
‘When the family supports, society does not discriminate’ was the motto of this year’s march, organized by Movilh, Chile’s main LGBT rights organisation.
It started at 2pm from Plaza Italia, at the heart of Santiago with a wide range of organisations and movements represented as well as party-goers and their friends and families. Besides carrying political banners, the march was festive in nature and boasted a huge closet that people could walk into and ‘come out’ of.
On a more serious note the march commemorated the death of Daniel Zamudio, a young man who was murdered by neo-Nazis due to his sexuality, and his mother spoke movingly in his memory during the event.
The march celebrated the resulting passage of Chile’s first anti-discrimination law, which will include harsh legal penalties for hate crimes once the country’s President SebastiÃ¡n Piñera signs it into law in a few weeks time.
The march continued through downtown Santiago ending by the La Moneda presidential palace, where two stages, organised by the two leading LGBT rights organisations of Chile, hosted celebrities, artists and speakers entertaining the crowd until 9pm.
Many politicians participated and spoke to the participants, including Education Minister Harald Beyer, Socialist Senator Isabel Allende, and ex-Finance Minister Andres Velasco, who is also a presidential candidate for the 2014 elections.
‘We have made some steps, but we need much more’ Velasco said. ‘It is incredible that we took seven years in Congress to have an anti-discrimination law, which was approved only when we saw a young Chilean man tortured to death only three blocks from here.’
The march also campaigned for a civil partnership law, known as Acuerdo de Vida de Pareja (AVP), that would formally recognize same-sex couples and grant them the same rights as heterosexual ones.
‘I have always supported gay marriage’ said Harald Beyer, Chile’s Education Minister. ‘Societies need to gradually move forward, and this government has taken the AVP as a first step to keep moving forward to have a more equal society.’
Speaking with Gay Star News, UK ambassador Benjamin said: ‘It’s the second year running I participated in the march.
‘I was there to show the British government’s support of LGBT rights worldwide, and personally I am also very supportive of gay rights movements.
‘During the march I read out a letter of support of LGBT rights in Chile signed by the 19 European Union Ambassadors which have an embassy in Santiago.
‘As far as I am aware I was the only ambassador present, but a US embassy representative also attended.
‘The fact that many politicians from across the political spectrum were present, including the Minister for Education, shows wide ranging support for LGBT rights.
‘Much change has been taking place in this rather conservative country since the return to democratic rule. LGBT rights have increasingly received wider support both politically and socially. The current government right of centre government, led by president Piñera is quite liberal on the issue of LGBT rights, as evidenced by the landmark anti-discrimination law and the plans to introduce civil partnership.
‘It is also worth noting that Chile voted for a UN resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity on the 17 June 2011.
‘On the 17 May we flew the rainbow flag alongside the Union Jack to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO).’
See the British ambassador, Benjamin, talking about his support for pride here (in Spanish):