Reduction of the age for criminal responsibility: the portrait of a successful hit to democracy and against youth.

Although Brazilian legislation already punishes adolescents who commit violations to the law from the age of twelve, the Chamber of Deputies reduced the age for criminal responsibility from the age of 18 to the age of 16.

Trying to make a recount of backward movements in Brazil was never as easy as it is now. The private finance initiative of candidates’ campaigns, the outsourcing of main activities’ services, the influence of the Evangelistic Church in decisions of the Legislative Power, the elimination of the term “gender” from the Education Municipal Plans, the rejection of the women quotas at the Congress. And now, the reduction of the age for criminal responsibility.

On 1st of July, social movements against the reduction of the age for criminal responsibility went to Brasilia, the capital city of the country, in order to put pressure and to follow the voting of the Proposed Amendment of the Constitution 171/93 (PEC 171), which aims to reduce the age of criminal responsibility from the age of 18 to 16. This intends to be applied to cases of atrocious crimes and those that attempt against life. This means that adolescents are to be punished for committing rape, drug trafficking and armed robbery. At first, the proposal was rejected. However, the president of the chamber of deputies, Eduardo Cunha (who belongs to the Party of the Democratic Brazilian Movement) erased from the proposal crimes such as drug trafficking and armed robbery. This is how, on small hours of 2nd of July, the reduction was approved by the Chamber. There were 323 positive votes, 155 negative votes and 2 abstentions.

Imagem Anistia Internacional Brasil
Image: Amnesty International Brazil 

Brazil has today the most conservative congress since the days of military dictatorship. This is why the country ignores the inversely proportional number of young people who are murdered and of young people who commit any violent crime.

According to the data provided by the National Secretary of Public Security, adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 commit less than 1% of the crimes which attempt against life in Brazil. The index of Homicides in Adolescence esteems that adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 are in great risk of being murdered before turning 19 in Brazilian cities which have over 100.000 residents. The 2015 Violence map shows that 58% of the youngsters who died in Brazil were victims of shots of firearms, and that they were 2.5 times more afro-descendent people than whites. In 2012, every 100.000 residents, the proportion of white victims was of 11.8 deaths, while the proportion registered for blacks was of 28.5 every 100.000. The difference is of 142%.

This data shows that the victims of the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility in Brazil have a certain skin color, home address and social class. This only means that such victims are young poor blacks who live in the outskirts of the big cities.

Besides from increasing the number of murdered young blacks, the consequences of this reduction go against the Brazilian Federal Constitution, the Children and Adolescent Statute and the UN´s Convention on the Rights of the Child. This amendment to the law will allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, sexual exploitation and porn for adolescents aged 16. Clearly, this means that reducing the age for criminal responsibility is not the solution.

Today, 70% of the countries of the world sets 18 years as the minimum age. However, Brazil intends to reduce it to 16. This picture is a portrait of a successful hit to democracy and against youth.

The next step establishes that the PEC 171 must go through a third voting at the Chamber, and other two at the Commission for the Constitution and Justice at the Senate before it is approved. The president Dilma Rousseff will not be allowed to interfere, as this is a prerogative of the Congress.