A referendum calling for life imprisonment for child molesters or murderers has passed the first debate in the Colombian senate, El Espectador reported Wednesday.
The referendum bill, which arrived at the First Senate Commission following the signatures of some two and a half million Colombians, was approved by a margin of 10 to five, with three abstentions.
The proposed constitutional change would remove the current limitation in Colombia that prevents any punishment of life imprisonment.
The Green Party, the Conservative Party and the Partido de la U all support the proposed legislative amendment, while the Polo Democratic Party, the Liberal Party and PIN party (Partido de Integracion Nacional) have opposed it.
Part of the objection rests on the wording of the amendment, which Senator Roy Barreras of the Partido de la U previously agreed was “poorly written,” although he voted in favor of the bill today, RCN Radio reports.
Liberal politicians had voiced concerns that a parent could be included under the legal remit of the amendment for simply disciplining their child.
The text, as it was approved today, states that “with regard to crimes of homicide, sexual violence and exploitation, severe abuse and abduction, committed against minors under 14 years old and minors with physical or mental disability, may apply the penalty of life imprisonment, according to the law.”
Gilma Jimenez, the Green Party senator who authored the proposal, heralded the passing of the bill and thanked the senators “on behalf of the 14 million children” in the country, reports El Tiempo.
The bill still has many hurdles to overcome in order to be enshrined in law, requiring passage through seven more debates and a subsequent review by the Constitutional Court before any possible public referendum over the issue.
The bill has nevertheless surpassed the previous attempt to amend the constitution, as it was struck down in 2010 by the Constituional Court for procedural problems.