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Chile Approves Anti-Discrimination Law

Chile's lawmakers have approved a new anti-discrimination and hate crimes law, following an outrage over the brutal murder of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man, by a group of alleged neo-Nazis in March.

The bill cleared its final hurdle on Wednesday night, when Chile's Senate approved the measure in a 25-3 vote. Incidentally, the bill was stuck in Congress for seven years until Daniel Zamudio's murder sparked a public outrage.

Soon after Zamudio was murdered, President Sebastian Pinera moved the bill on to a fast track for approval by the country's Congress. The newly approved measure makes it a crime to discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, appearance or physical disabilities.

The new measure, referred by many in Chile as the Zamudio law, enables people to file anti-discrimination lawsuits and adds hate-crime sentences for violent crimes. Its successful passage through the Congress in seen as a victory for rights groups as well as gay rights campaigners in Chile.

After the bill was passed by the Senate late Wednesday, Senator Alberto Espina of the country's ruling center-right coalition stated that the new hate crimes law marks "an enormous culture change for our country."

"Chile is a country that discriminates a lot for being (indigenous) Mapuche, for being gay, for your nationality, for having disabilities. We have to acknowledge this and not sweep it under the carpet," he added.

The developments come after Zamudio was brutally attacked in a city park on March 3. He was found with extensive head injuries, a broken right leg and swastika symbols were carved into his body. The young gay man subsequently died of his injuries three weeks later.

Four suspects, some of them with previous criminal records for attacking gays, have been arrested in connection with the murder. Although prosecutors have sought murder charges for the suspects, all four of them have denied any involvement in the murder as well as being neo-Nazis.

by RTT Staff Writer

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