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In January, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced the start of an open public discussion on same-sex marriage aimed at producing a “satisfactory bill on marriage equality, recognizing the same rights for everyone.” It was, she said, “not only a demand of the international Justice system, but a legitimate demand of Chilean society.”

Chile's government house is illuminated with rainbow colours to mark International Day Against Homophobia in Santiago, Chile, May 17, 2016.  © 2016 Reuters

Bachelet’s announcement fulfils a pledge she made at a United Nations’ event in September 2016, organized by the UN core group of LGBT friendly countries and civil society representatives, including Human Rights Watch. During the event, Bachelet said she would introduce a same-sex marriage bill in the Chilean Congress during the first half of 2017.

Chile has taken other steps in recent years to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. In 2012, Chile passed a hate crime and anti-discrimination law that protects individuals harmed on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The law was approved in the wake of the brutal murder of Daniel Zamudio, a young gay man who died after being severely beaten, swastikas carved into his body.

Chile has also taken positive steps on the international stage. In 2016, Chile was one of the lead sponsors of an important UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing the mandate of an Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity issues. The vote was reaffirmed in December 2016 at the United Nations General Assembly.

If the marriage equality bill is adopted, Chile will become the sixth country in Latin America where same-sex couples can get married, after Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Uruguay.

As of February 1, 2017, there are 21 countries with marriage equality. Approximately 1 billion people live in these countries of an estimated world population of 7 billion.

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