Chile has experienced a crucial turn in its political landscape with the results of Sunday’s referendum in which voters rejected a proposed constitution that generated concern among LGBTQ activists.
Chileans rejected the draft constitution with 55.8 percent of voters supporting the “against” option. Turnout was 84.5 percent.
The Republican Party, founded by the far right-wing former presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, led the effort behind the proposed constitution. Sunday marked the second time that Chileans went to the polls to decide on a new constitution — the process began after social protests rocked the country in October 2019.
A year after the unrest, more than 80 percent of voters were in favor of replacing the constitution, but the first attempt that independents and left wing sectors led, failed in September 2022, when 62 percent of Chileans voted “rejection.”
With the second rejection on Sunday, voters punished the right wing after opposing independents and the left wing. This result ended a cycle of euphoria after the social unrest with a high initial percentage for change. The current constitution, which took effect in 1980 during Augusto Pinochet’s regime and has undergone several changes, remains in force.
María José Cumplido, executive director of Fundación Iguales, expressed relief, noting the proposed constitution posed a significant risk to the rights of women and sexual diversities.
“We are very relieved,” Cumplido told the Washington Blade.
As to how she perceives these results will affect the LGBTQ community in terms of rights and protections, Cumplido noted more voters consciously objected to the proposed constitution that could have resulted in constitutionalized discrimination. Cumplido, however, pointed out the 1980 constitution does not ensure real protections against discrimination, which means Fundación Iguales will continue to work in this area.
Cumplido highlighted the broad conscientious objection could allow discrimination on religious grounds. She further noted the lack of a sufficiently robust non-discrimination principle and expressed concerns about the weakness of the rights of children and adolescents.
“Conscientious objection has been used to reopen debates that had already been democratically resolved, usually in relation to specific groups, such as LGBTIQ+ (people), whose rights were only recently recognized and whose implementation is sought to be avoided, even if this significantly affects the holders of those rights,” said Cumplido.
Ignacia Oyarzun, president and coordinator of legislation and public policy of Organizando Trans Diversidades, expressed relief over the referendum’s results. Oyarzun emphasized the proposed constitution would have limited the possibility of advancing transgender rights.
“It basically boils down to a sense of tranquility,” Oyarzun pointed out to the Blade. “Understanding that for particularly communities like ours, who are socially vulnerable, who have historically been excluded from political, social spaces, it implied the possibility of being able to suffer, let’s say, even more social and political vexations in relation to a constitution guaranteeing certain possibilities of discrimination directly towards our communities.”
Oyarzun affirmed the results guarantee the continuity of the advances in trans rights and for the broader LGBTQ community. Oyarzun also pointed out the proposed constitution threatened rights that the trans community has won, such as the recognition of gender identity.
“It gave the possibility of going backwards in rights that we have already currently managed to achieve, such as for example identity recognition or for example circulars, in this case of Infancia Circular de Educación 0812, which enables the respect of the gender identity of girls and boys (and their ability to) use (their) social name, (their) use of (a) bathroom, (a) uniform,” Oyarzun emphasized. “All this would have been under the possibility of being eventually repealed or even not respected without any type of sanction for the educational establishments.”
Oyarzun added that “then, particularly these results, what guarantees us in a certain way is not to see a backward step basically in the rights we have acquired and to the continuity, let us say, of the advances we have achieved and the possibility of being able to continue advancing in terms of human and protection rights for our communities.”
In relation to the risk posed by conscientious objection and the lack of protection against discrimination for trans people, Oyarzun highlighted the concern about overt discrimination in educational establishments and stressed it could have led to a worse quality of life and an increase in violence that would directly affecting the life expectancy of trans people.