ADDED ON: 04/24/2022

Inter-American court rules in favor of lesbian religion teacher in Chile

4/23/22 | Washington Blade

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Wednesday ruled Chile is responsible for the discriminatory treatment of a teacher who was removed from her position in 2007 because she is a lesbian. Sandra Pavez Pavez had worked as a Catholic religion teacher since 1985 at Colegio Municipal Cardenal Antonio Samoré in San Bernardo, a city that is just south of the country’s capital of Santiago. The Chilean Catholic Church on July 25, 2007, revoked her certification that the Chilean Ministry of Education required to work as a religion teacher. The reason? Pavez came out as a lesbian after a rumor indicated she was in a relationship with another woman. Pavez also refused to undergo psychological and psychiatric therapies the church offered her in order to change her sexual orientation. The clergy acted under the Ministry of Education’s Decree 924, which the Pinochet dictatorship issued in 1983, that “regulates religion classes in educational establishments” and empowers churches to decide who may or may not teach the subject. El Movimiento de Integración y Liberación Homosexual (Movilh), Chile’s main LGBTQ rights group, appealed the decision to the San Miguel Court of Appeals. It was rejected and the Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Both Chilean courts ruled Pavez had not suffered discrimination under Decree 924, so Movilh sued Chile in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. More than a decade later, the court ruled “the State of Chile is responsible for the violation of the rights to equality and non-discrimination, personal liberty, privacy and work, recognized in the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Sandra Pavez Pavez, for the discriminatory treatment she suffered … based on her sexual orientation.” “At no time were the effects that this measure would have on Sandra Pavez Pavez’s personal life or on her teaching vocation taken into account,” reads the decision. “The court determined that the right to work was compromised to the extent that, through the reassignment of functions, her teaching vocation was undermined and constituted a form of job demotion.” As part of the resolution, the court ordered comprehensive reparation measures that include a public act of recognition of international responsibility and guarantees of non-repetition. Chile is also required to amend its policies towards educational institutions, pay Pavez $35,000 in material and non-material damages and another $30,000 in costs and expenses.

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