Chile: Death penalty for child rapists?

The rape and murder of a 23-month-old baby opens the debate on the death penalty in the South American country

Chile: Death penalty for child rapists?

A new case of sexual abuse and murder of minors opened the debate on the death penalty in Chile. On this occasion, the death of a minor barely 23 months old who was beaten, raped and suffocated by her father, led the Chilean people to propose a referendum that punishes the child rapists with the death penalty.

The event, which occurred in Puerto Montt (south of the country), shocked the citizens and prompted a group of ultraconservative legislators of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) to send a letter to President-elect Sebastián Piñera, stating that "the evil and the null respect to life does not allow another option than to pay with his life the atrocious crimes committed". The death penalty in Chile was repealed in 2001, during the government of then-President Ricardo Lagos Escobar. This capital punishment was then replaced by the qualified perpetual prison, which imposes a punishment of 40 years in prison on the aggressor, before opting for parole.

Split opinion

Despite the country's tremor over the recent act of cruelty committed against the child, humanitarian organizations, citizens and parliamentarians are divided over the debate on the restitution of the death penalty. Even spokespersons of organizations that watch over the rights of women and children have stated that capital punishment is not an effective way to combat this type of violence.

Those who oppose the restitution of the death penalty indicate that the solution is to move towards a comprehensive law that prevents violence against women and work on an inclusive cultural change that is capable of reestablishing relationships and interactions in society. This is how some members of the 'Ni una menos' movement describe the intention to revoke the measure, as an opportunistic and sensationalist motion, which only seeks to justify impunity and lack of justice.

For their part, parliamentarians and citizens in favor of the re-implementation of deadly punishment argue that the death penalty should be allowed in Chile, since it is contemplated in the Military Code. They also ratify that change will only be seen  and the figures of feminicide and rape towards children in Latin America will fall if sacnctions against those who attack minors are intensified.

While the opinions on this debate are divided as much in the parliament as in organizations and the civil opinion, senators remember that the restitution of the measure would imply reforming the Constitution of Chile and resigning to several international treaties that the nation already has signed.

Lax punishments for rapists in Latin America?

In Latin America, no country imposes the death penalty for those who sexually assault minors and kill them during the act.

Peru and Chile punish the sexual abuse of minors that end in death with life imprisonment. In Argentina, chemical castration can be contemplated, when there is more than one abuse perpetrated by the same subject. In the other South American countries, the laws tend to be lax, going through a few years of prison, and after that even contemplating probation.

Statistics carried out by the Inter-American Children's Institute, OAS (IIN), show that in Latin America more than two million children and adolescents are sexually exploited every year. This indicates that every hour 228 minors, mostly girls, are raped, and in half of the cases, by a member of their family.


Latin American Post | Krishna Jaramillo

Translated from " Chile: Death penalty for child rapists?"

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