San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Legislative Assembly

Costa Rica seeks to ban child beauty pageants

Lawmakers in the Legislative Assembly’s Commission on Childhood, Adolescence and Youth on Tuesday approved the drafting of two bills aimed at expanding the rights and protection of minors in Costa Rica.

The first bill seeks to prevent all forms of sexualization of children, including a proposed ban on child beauty pageants, modeling events and any public event that promotes the sexualization of minors.

Following Tuesday’s vote, bill sponsor Humberto Vargas of the Social Cristian Unity Party said that legislative efforts are “an apology for the physical, psychological and mental abuse of children and adolescents.”

Vargas said these types of contests and shows promote an overt sexual image of young girls who are subjected to competitions that are adult-oriented and serve only for commercial gain.

“Research in countries such as the U.S. and France found that these contests and public shows only promote young girls as objects and encourage sexualization and eroticization of minors,” Vargas said.

The bill calls for a total ban on beauty pageants and modeling for minors, even with the consent of a child’s parents. For people found guilty of organizing or hosting such events, it calls for fines of up to 14 minimum wages – more than ₡5 million ($9,000). Funds collected from the fines would go to Costa Rica’s Child Welfare Office.

Rights for sick children

Commission members also approved the drafting of a bill to protect the interests of children with serious illnesses. The initiative aims to help parents of children with serious health conditions by granting them the right to paid sick leave, and in some cases, financial aid.

National Children’s Hospital Director Olga Arguedas said parents who must care for children in serious or terminally ill condition often are forced to take unpaid leave, use vacation days, or quit their jobs because currently there is no law granting the benefit of sick leave with the purpose of caring for a child.

The approved draft provides parents the right to take paid sick leave and receive a subsidy for the time required to care for a child with a severe illness or for a period determined by the attending physician.

That permission would be renewed every 30 days and could be lifted before a deadline based on medical criteria.

Arguedas told lawmakers that according to Children’s Hospital statistics, the benefit would be provided to a maximum of 200 patients per year.

Both drafts will now move forward for discussion and voting in a first round of debates by the full Assembly.

Contact L. Arias at

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Ken Morris

Good ideas, but the difficulty with the first bill is that sexualizing children may require a quite subjective judgment. There are child models in catalogs and TV commercials, and I suppose some of them wear swim suits, and public events like beach volleyball could plausibly be construed as sexualizing children. Meanwhile, the real problem seems to be some mothers, who dress up their 10-year-olds in high heels and makeup without any public event needed.

I’m afraid this first bill may just be another example of Tico legislative overreach. The intent is certainly worthwhile, but the mindset which assumes that every problem can be solved by passing a law against it isn’t helpful. Heck, not long ago the legislature passed a law against spanking children. Good idea (unless the kid is a real brat) but parents don’t follow the law. The more such laws that are passed, the more lawyers get work and courts get clogged with the periodic arbitrary arrest.

There are better ways to tackle this problem than passing a law.

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Guillermo Ortiz

Great! I wish the US would do the same thing. Let kids be kids, not sexualized individuals being manipulated by selfish parents living vicariously through their kids at the expense of their childhood innocence.

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