Congress approves controversial bill allowing life imprisonment for child rapists

(Image: President's Office)

Colombia’s congress approved a constitutional amendment to sentence convicted child rapists and killers to life in prison amid a major controversy.

The constitutional amendment proposed by the government of President Ivan Duque was approved unanimously as 30 senators boycotted the vote.

Whether the vote will be approved by the Constitutional Court is uncertain as the constitution explicitly prohibits life sentences and alleged irregularities in the voting process.

Duque’s flagship proposal announced in July last year was opposed by the government’s own criminal policy commission, which dismissed it it as “populist,” “ineffective” and “unconstitutional.”

Duque’s proposal to curb rampant child sex abuse in Colombia ‘populist’ and ineffective: experts

Who cares about criminal policy experts

Despite the objection of the experts, Duque formally proposed the constitutional amendment and Congress approved it.

The president celebrated the controversial decision, claiming that “Colombia has a big reason to be happy today, now that Congress has pushed through the great reform that so many families were waiting for, which is that from today Colombia has a life sentence for rapists and murderers of minors. ”

Duque lied, as the Constitutional Court first has to sign off on the bill before his proposal becomes law, which is far from certain.

The court could declare the bill unconstitutional if it agrees  to the numerous claims congress approved the government proposal illegally.

Furthermore, the constitution explicitly prohibits life sentences. By allowing any exception, the Constitutional Court would set a precedent that would allow Congress to legislate on all kinds of exceptions.

The gravity of the situation

Growing up as a child in a country like Colombia is really difficult. It is not easy to develop in an environment where violence in all its facets is seen and lived on a daily basis, and where children are not seen as actors in building a peaceful society. We hear all the time that children are the future. But those words are not accompanied by the actions of adults.

Jose (15)

Colombia, which saw the murder of 165 children under 14 last year, is among the most violent countries for children in the world, according to children’s rights organization Save the Children.

Pedophilia is terrifyingly common, particularly within families, which complicates accurate estimates of the magnitude of the problem.

Almost 76% of all 26,062 rapes reported with the country’s Medical Examiner’s Office involved children under 14.

Girls between the ages of 10 and 13 are at the greatest risk of suffering some form of sexual violence with 9,350 assessments corresponding to 41.91%. While for boys it is the age range of 5 to 9 years that is the most vulnerable with 36.47% equivalent to 1,370 cases.

Medical Examiner’s Office

Many don’t even bother reporting sexual violence with the notoriously ineffective prosecution, which was unable to even indict alleged perpetrators of sexual violence in 88% of the cases that were reported.

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