This week Peru became the ninth country in Latin America to approve a total ban on physical and humiliating punishment used against children and adolescents.
Humiliating punishment is defined as any type of treatment employed with aim of controlling a boy, girl or adolescent that offends, denigrates, devalues, stigmatizes or ridicules the child.
This law significantly modifies the existing penal code which up to this point afforded those exercising parental powers a right to “moderately” punish their children. It also affirms for the first time the right of a child to “good treatment.”
Although the initiative behind the law did not come from Congress, but rather the NGO Training Institute for Adolescent and Child Workers (INFANT), political approval of the law was resounding with 75 members of congress voting in favor, none voting against and only one abstention.
Marcela Huaita Alegre, the minister for women and vulnerable groups, hailed the law, and highlighted its significance in the context of Peru’s progress in implementing human rights conventions. As the law’s supporters argue, banning physical punishment against children serves to establish equality with adults in enjoying the right to a life free from violence.
Peru follows Venezuela, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Honduras, Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil and Nicaragua in implementing such measures.
The representative of UNICEF in Peru, Maria Luisa Fornara, also congratulated Peru’s legislators.
“The Congress’ decision signals that different powers of the Peruvian state are committed to respecting and meeting childrens’ rights, recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” stated Fornara.
A good example?
The law’s approval was not without some dissension however most notably from evangelical conservative congressman Julio Rosas who abstained from the vote. “I would vote to sanction all forms of violence but have also asked (it be) taken into account, that you maintain the duty of parents to provide a good example and responsible correction”.
El buen ejemplo de vida de los padres y la corrección responsable no se debieron derogar en el Congreso.
— Julio Rosas (@juliorosas1) December 10, 2015
On his Twitter account Rosas continued: “Parents’ good example and the use of responsible correction should not have been derogated in congress.”
Many Peruvians commenting on social media doubted the enforceability of the law particularly in Peru’s mountainous communities.
According to UNICEF, 28.6 percent of Peruvian mothers and 25.6 percent of fathers admit to using physical punishments against their children.