June 1, 2020

The IACHR accuses Chile of violating the rights of a lesbian teacher of religion

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) declared the State of Chile responsible for violating the principle of equality and private life of Sandra Pavez, a professor of religion who was banned from teaching in 2007 for being a lesbian, she said Wednesday the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement, an entity that represents the teacher.

After eleven years of investigation, the IACHR concluded that the Chilean State violated Pavez's private life and autonomy, the principle of equality and non-discrimination, and also access to public service and work on equal terms.

For these reasons, the Commission will denounce Chile before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which will resolve the sanctions against the South American State.

"I am calm and excited because progress is being made in justice. 12 years ago I was taken away from teaching, a profession that I practiced for more than two decades. I trust that the Court will do justice with the sanctions," Pavez said in a press conference together to leaders of the Homosexual Integration and Liberation Movement (Movilh).

Pavez was a professor of religion at a municipal school in Santiago from 1985 until in 2007 the Catholic Church revoked the certificate of suitability that allowed her to do her teaching.

The professor maintains that this happened after she admitted that she was a lesbian and maintained a relationship with another woman, and refused to undergo psychological therapies offered by the Church to reverse her sexual orientation.

"The sorrows of hell came upon me. I was told to deny what I was, and to deny that is to deny myself, I am a human being and I cannot deny what I am," Pavez explained.

The Church acted under a decree of the Ministry of Education in force since 1983 that regulates the teaching of religion in educational settings and allows the clergy to decide who can teach in that area.

The Movilh then filed an appeal for protection before the Court of Appeals of San Miguel, which was rejected in November 2007 and ratified in April last year by the Supreme Court.

Both courts considered that the Chilean State and the Church had not acted in an illegal or discriminatory manner, something that now contradicts the IACHR.

In its resolution, the Commission determined that not only Pavez was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation, but that there were also no "concrete and deliberate actions" to prevent such violations.

"On the contrary, the State ratified and reinforced them through the decisions of its judicial authorities," said the IACHR.

Pavez stressed that this episode, far from removing her from her religious beliefs, reinforced her faith. "I am a believing woman, I still believe and I will die believing in God," he said.

Rolando Jiménez, leader of Movilh, said that the resolution of the IACHR is "historic" because it guarantees non-discrimination in the workplace and clarifies that religious freedom is not valid to exclude people because of their sexual orientation.

"We are in the presence of a resolution with international impact for LGBTI rights for all the aspects it addresses. Our recognition for Sandra for defeating two historical giants responsible for homophobia and transphobia: the Church and the State," he said.

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