Gender Identity Law Moves Chile in More Progressive Direction

Legislators in Chile approved a bill allowing transgender individuals to change their official records Wednesday, setting an impressive precedent for a more conservative country.

First introduced into Chile’s congress in 2013, the law allows citizens over the age of eighteen to change their official details, including gender identity. The law also applies to individuals as young as fourteen, who can change their official records with a parent or guardian’s permission. Though the law passed in Congress, it did not find popular support among Chile’s conservative party with one senator calling it an “aberration.” Other senators have pledged to challenge the law on the basis that it “undermines the right of the biological identity of minors.”

The gender identity law could move Chile in a more progressive direction, leading to a brighter future for the country as a while. Legislatively, Chile has long been a country with a large conservative influence. The traditionally Catholic country’s ban on abortion stirred headlines because of its criminalization of abortion – without exception.

However, after years of debate and protests that flooded Chile’s capital, Santiago, eventually Chile began to relax its complete ban on abortions. Yet, after the blanket ban was repealed, President Pinera stated that the state “will always be pro-life.” The Catholic church of Chile even helped lobby legislators to add an amendment to the bill allowing abortions in the cases of rape or medical emergency, which would allow hospitals to refuse to provide abortions. The amendment to the bill was a step back; the same fate could befall the gender identity law.

However, the Foundation for Equal Rights in Chile and other LGBTQ+ organizations in Chile see the law as a step in the right direction. The Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MHIL) said of the law: “It will improve the quality of life of thousands of people whose dignity and rights have been denigrated simply by the prejudices that exist against their gender identification.” MHIL Chile also stated that the gender identity law would result in a reduction of suicides by queer and transgender individuals, though it could have been targeted towards those under fourteen as well.

With the Catholic church facing multiple scandals in Chile, its influence over politics in Chile may be weakening. As a result, changing attitudes across the country could have an effect on lawmakers’ stances on various moral issues, like abortion and same-sex marriage, pushing them in a more progressive direction.

If the passing of this law signals the movement towards more progressive and equal legislation – Chilean society only stands to benefit.