Gay men tortured with lit cigars and boiling water in Chile homophobic attacks

A gay rights protest in Chile

Two gay men were tortured in separate horrific homophobic attacks in Chile on New Year’s Day (January 1).

One man, José David Muñoz Vargas, 51, was assaulted in the town of Porvenir and forced to sit in a tub of hot water because of his sexuality, resulting in severe burns, reports Chilean LGBT+ rights organisation the Movement of Homosexual Integration and Liberation (Movilh) reports.

He was taken to Hospital Marco Chamorro Iglesias and has since been transferred to the Intermediate Treatments Unit (Uti) of the Clinical Hospital of Punta Arenas.

Muñoz Vargas remains in a critical condition.

Two men beaten in separate homophobic attacks

The incident is currently being investigated by police.

“We are in contact with family members who tell us that the attack was homophobic, so we will continue to provide guidance and help in whatever way they wish,” said Rolando Jiménez, head of Movilh.

Another man, aged 24, who remains anonymous, was assaulted in the port city of Valparaíso, also on January 1.

Movilh reports that the man was being given a lift by two people, who attacked him when they heard him speaking to his partner on the phone.

“Everything was going well until the young man started talking on the phone with his partner,”said Movilh representative Diego Ríos.

“The assailants began to insult him because of his sexual orientation, as well as beating and torturing him.”

Chile's presidential palace is illuminated with rainbow lighting in support of the gay community

La Moneda Palace illuminated with the colours of the rainbow to celebrate the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia in Santiago, on May 17, 2016. (MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

He added that the man was taken to Laguna Verde, where his assailants “lowered him to torture him, put cigarettes in his hands and pressed his genitals and his hands.

Ríos said: “He remembers until the moment when he was hit on the head with a stone and fell unconscious. He woke up the other day disoriented and lost.”

The man has since been treated at a health centre.

Ríos continued: “We call on local authorities to help victims of this type of abuse…and to educate LGBTI youth about their rights and about the dangers they face, in order to prevent further abuses.”

The attacks highlight how Chile’s LGBT+ community still faces the threat of physical violence, despite legislative advances in recent years.

In 2017, a Chilean gay man was assaulted with a broken bottle a homophobic attack, which left him needing 15 stitches on his face.

Gay rights in Chile have progressed in recent years

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Chile since 1999.

The country also introduced anti-discrimination and hate crime laws in 2012 in a bid to provide protections for the LGBT+ community.

A bill to legalise equal marriage was signed by the then president Michelle Bachelet in August 2017 and is awaiting approval from the two houses of congress.

In November, Chilean president Sebastian Pinera, who took up his role in March, signed a landmark bill into law, which allows trans people above the age of 14 to update their name and gender on official records.

The law marks a progressive shift in Chile, which is strongly Roman Catholic and became one of the last countries in the world to legalise divorce in 2004.