The parliament of colombia has approved on Thursday a constitutional reform providing for prison sentences for the rapists and murderers of children and adolescents up to the age of 14 years.
By 75 votes in favour and none against, the Senate, with the support of the government of the right speaker Ivan Duque, voted to the amendment of article 34 of the Constitution, which prevents ” the penalties of exile, imprisonment and confiscation “.
“In an exceptional way, when a child or adolescent will be the victim of homicide is the deliberate, intercourse with violence or inability to resist, a sentence of up to life imprisonment may be imposed,” says the amendment voted on.
The text, already approved by the Chamber of deputies, will be promulgated by the head of the State in the next few days. It was voted unanimously of those present, but 30 senators had left the chamber before.
Until then, the jail sentence is the maximum in Colombia was 60 years in prison.
The parliament’s vote is the culmination of a debate of more than a decade in this country of strong conservative tradition.
In power since August 2018, Ivan Duque had made this issue a theme of his election campaign and promoted its discussion in Parliament.
“Today, Colombia has a great reason for happiness. Today, the Congress of the Republic has made progress in this important reform that were waiting for so many families, as we all hoped, ” said the president in his televised speech daily.
He stressed that he hoped that the assaults against minors are still crimes ” indispensable for that at any time, anyone who has committed such a crime receives this penalty copy “.
In Colombia, nearly two miners on average are murdered every day. According to the authority of medico-legal, over 22 000 children aged below 18 years have been victims of sexual crimes and 708 of homicide in 2019.
During the long debates, the defenders of the project argued that offenders against juveniles tend to reoffend and that the sentence of life imprisonment would be a way to deter them. They have also argued that the assaults against children had increased in recent years and the penalties in force, although heavy, were not always served in full.
For their part, the project’s critics, including opposition parliamentarians, academics and experts have argued that a harsher penalty was not effective in decreasing aggression. According to them, it would be better to invest in criminal investigations to reduce the impunity of these crimes.
A senator from the left, Ivan Cepeda, has called the decision “lamentable” and ” unconstitutional “.
“The problem comes from the fact that in Colombia, 95 % of these facts remain unpunished. The problem is not that the sentences are long, the problem is that there is no investigation, there is no serious action from the criminal justice system, ” said the parliamentary opposition.