Last updated at 16:40 BST, Wednesday, 07 April 2010

Lesbian custody fight in Chile


7 April 2010

The Organisation of American States has criticised Chile over a court ruling, in which a woman lost custody of her children because she was living with her lesbian partner.


Greg Morsbach

Chilean flag


Listen to the report:


Karen Atala was devastated when six years ago Chile's Supreme Court ruled against her and awarded sole custody of her daughters to her estranged husband. The judges said she was free to live in a lesbian relationship. However, they added that Mrs Atala had put her personal interests before the interests of her three girls.

The court argued if the youngsters remained in a same-sex household they would probably be bullied at school and could be confused about their own sexual orientation. In summary, the court said the girls could sustain long-term psychological damage.

For the past six years, Mrs Atala has only been able to visit her children once a month. They live 700 kilometres away with their father. With all legal avenues in Chile exhausted, she turned to the Organisation of American States in Washington.

After years of lobbying in the United States, the OAS finally agreed to investigate her case. The OAS has given Chile until the 17th April to respond to its complaint.

Greg Morsbach, BBC News


Click to hear the vocabulary:


was devastated

felt very shocked or upset

awarded sole custody

given complete responsibility for looking after the children

her estranged husband

her husband, who she is no longer living with

put her personal interests before

thought about her own needs and wants before those of other people (here, her children)


young people

a same-sex household

a home where the family consists of two adults of the same sex (lesbians or gay men)

be bullied

be hurt or frightened by someone who is more powerful than you, often because you are thought to be different (for example, because of your race, gender, religion or sexuality)

could be confused about their own sexual orientation

might not be sure if they are heterosexual (attracted to people who are the opposite sex from them) or homosexual (attracted to people who are the same sex as them)

sustain long-term psychological damage

would have mental health problems for a long time

all legal avenues in Chile exhausted

all the possible ways of fighting against this in court have been tried (and were unsuccessful)

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