Chilean court delivers controversial sodomy conviction

Gay rights activists in Santiago, northern Chile are outraged by a recent sodomy conviction in a Chilean court, stating that it is evidence of a bias against homosexuals in Chilean law.

The Santiago Times reported last week that a panel of judges in Antofagasta, Region II, had found a 47-year-old labourer guilty of sodomising a 17-year-old male.

Because the accused had no previous criminal record, the court sentenced him to 41 days in jail – far less than the 541-day jail term prosecutors had recommended.

The case began when police discovered the two males having sex in a pickup truck.

Although the young man in question – just 12 days shy of his 18th birthday at the time of the incident – testified that the sex was consensual, prosecutors nevertheless pursued the case, arguing that the accused “corrupted the child’s sexual morality.”

The ruling was the first sodomy conviction to be issued in Region II since the country’s criminal law procedures were overhauled in 2001.

The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Freedom (MOVILH), Chile’s leading gay rights organisation told the Santiago Times : “It reflects one of the most serious and atrocious legal imbalances we, Chile’s sexual minorities, face.”

One problem, according to MOVILH, is a major discrepancy regarding the legal age of sexual consent: 12, for heterosexuals, 18 for homosexuals.

MOVILH describes the difference as “arbitrary, unjust and hypocritical.”

Another problem, according to the group, is that the Code’s Article 365, which deals specifically with sodomy, can be used too easily to target homosexual men.

In direct response to the Antofagasta case, MOVILH this week sent a letter to the U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child. It stated: “We object to the fact that young people and couples are being qualified as criminals solely because of their sexual orientation. #

“That is a serious human rights violation.”