San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Legislation

Supreme Court backs bill to ban sex with minors

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, has upheld the wording of a bill that establishes prison sentences for adults convicted of having sex with a minor.

The bill, under consideration in the Legislative Assembly, would amend the country’s Penal Code. In Costa Rica today, sex between an adult and a person under 13 is considered rape, but sex between an adult and an adolescent over 13 years old is legal.

According to UNICEF, the minimum age of sexual consent in Latin America and the Caribbean ranges from 12 to 18 years old; the average age is 15, and the median is 16 years old.

Lawmakers approved the bill by a 40-3 margin in the first round of debate on Aug. 29. However, Libertarian Otto Guevara halted the process by securing the support of ten legislators for a consultation before the Sala IV.

Guevara said the bill violates the constitutional principle of equal treatment by establishing various age ranges for a crime. He has also criticized the proposal because of “the amount of money it will cost the government to prosecute and sanction offenders.”

Justices of the Sala IV disagreed, ruling that the current wording of Bill #19337 is not unconstitutional.

The Legislative Assembly must now wait for official notification of the ruling from the Sala IV before moving forward with the bill’s discussion. Legislators will then vote on the bill in a second and final round of debate.

If approved, the bill would take effect after President Luis Guillermo Solís signs it and it is published in the official government newspaper La Gaceta.

Prison sentences

The initiative, known as the “Bill to Ban Improper Relationships,” proposes prison sentences of up to ten years for those found guilty of engaging in sexual relations with adolescents between the ages of 13 and 18.

Sentences would depend on the age difference between the adult and the adolescent. For example, prison time would range from three to six years when the adolescent is between the ages of 13-15 and the adult is five or more years older. In the case of an adolescent between 15-18 years old and an adult who is seven or more years older, however, the bill proposes two to three years in prison.

A sanction of four to ten years would apply when the adult is the minor’s family member, legal guardian or caregiver, or has a close relation with the adolescent or his or her family.

The justices of the Sala IV ruled in favor of these differentiations, noting that they are supported by research and by the recommendations of various United Nations agencies.

The bill also bans marriage between minors; between an adult and a minor; and between an adoptee and any member of his or her adoptive family.

Mixed reactions

Following the Sala IV ruling, Guevara reiterated that he will maintain his opposition to the initiative. The Libertarian said he still doesn’t see any technical criteria for the age gaps set in the bill.

“I stand by my opposition and I’ll vote against this bill,” he said on Wednesday evening.

Other legislators, such as Emilia Molina from the ruling Citizen Action Party (PAC), celebrated the decision.

“Today we take a firm step towards the protection of the innocence, health and future of our children and adolescents,” Molina said.

The Ombudsman’s Office also expressed its approval of the ruling. Ombudswoman Montserrat Solano said the bill is needed to ensure that the future of Costa Rican children is “full of opportunities and without the pressure of an unequal power relationship.”

Supporters say the initiative will reduce the sexual abuse of minors, teen pregnancies and school dropout rates.

The proposal amends various articles of the country’s Criminal Code, Family Code, Civil Code and also laws from the Supreme Elections Tribunal and the Civil Registry.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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Ken Morris

Otto doing his obstructionist thing again.

Look, the age gaps are more than reasonable. A 23-year-old college graduate can still screw a 17-year-old high school junior, and I’m not sure how much more leeway Otto wants. Plus, if he wants to get all pissy about it, there is no good reason to make age 18 the legal age either. Brain maturation continues until about age 25, which is also the age car rental companies and lawyers writing wills with trusts sensibly set as the age of maturity. Does Otto want to say no sex until age 25?

He’s just being an idiot about this. No, there’s no magic age, but the ages set by the bill are reasonable and some kids will be protected by it.

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Guanacasteco

Be careful Costa Rica. Foreign pedophiles are already here in your country and watching your children. Look at the comment of this Libertarian Int.Org person. He is trying to strike fear into the progressives in Costa Rica to stop a law that protects children from pedophiles. I have children and have told my wife and friends to be very cautious of the gringos here with the kids. There is a readily available report that says that US sexual predators on the sex offender registry escape to Puerto Rico with most frequency then Costa Rica–there are thousands here. Don’t let these sick outside forces try to tell you that protecting kids is wrong. It is right. Anyone who attempts to have sex, grope, introduce pornography or anything of the such to a person under 18 needs to be removed from the public. Gay rights are just fine and Costa Rica already protects them.

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Ken Morris

Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Yes, every once in awhile a US sexual predator ends up in Costa Rica, but the predators are hardly primarily gringos. The overwhelming majority are Ticos. Check the data. Gringos offenders are rare, Tico offenders not so rare. The blame-the-gringo thing gets old fast.

Plus, while again some gringo child molesters end up in Costa Rica, most have long ago moved up to Nicaragua where the people are poorer, the enforcement more lax, and the pickings are easier.

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Don Blake

Really???….Oh how forward thinking!….it isn’t illegal already???……good God Costa Rica get your act together!….Ban it NOW!

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Libertarian Int. Org

The worldwide attempt to regulate sexuality by the extreme right and left and reverse years of progress is a concern. The bill will be likely used as in the US, to prosecute LGBT and High-IQ youth and imprison young people who take erotic photos of themselves, or as in some countries where it is used to attack minorities and expropriate tribal peoples who marry young of their resources and enrich political parties.

For more on world Libertarians see http://www.libertarian-international.org

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